Speaker stalemate options narrow as GOP swats down off-ramp

House Republicans and their nominee for Speaker, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), ended a marathon day with no Speaker, no clear path for the Ohio Republican to win the gavel — and even fewer ways out of their conundrum.

Jordan spiked plans to hold a third floor vote on his Speakership bid Thursday as more Republicans said they intended to vote against him on the next go-around. 

The House will return to vote on his third attempt Friday at 10 a.m., a spokesperson said.

But it is likely that the number of Republican votes against him — 20 on his first ballot Tuesday, and 22 on the second ballot Wednesday — will only increase.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) told The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday that he would no longer support Jordan on the House floor, and Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) said Thursday morning “it’s not my intention to support a third ballot” when asked if he would back Jordan again. Both had supported Jordan in the first two floor votes.

Putting Republicans in an even tougher spot, the conference Thursday swatted down a proposal to temporarily empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), which was viewed by many as a last-ditch way to resume business in the House as the Speaker race continues behind the scenes.

Jordan, meanwhile, appeared to make no progress in swaying the holdouts after meeting with them Thursday afternoon. Multiple defectors — including Reps. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Carlos A. Gimenez (R-Fla.) and John Rutherford (Fla.) — left that meeting saying they were unmoved and that Jordan has no path.

“You know how smart this guy is right? And he doesn’t wear glasses. He can see the writing on the wall,” Kelly said of Jordan’s grim prospects.

Several of the holdouts point to their anger towards the conference’s first nominee for Speaker, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), being forced to withdraw his candidacy after Jordan supporters refused to support him on the House floor — and anger at the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) 16 days ago.

However, a Reuters photographer captured Jordan’s notes scribbled on a napkin emerging from the meeting: “what is the real reason?” 

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), a close Jordan ally, warned the public Thursday that “Additional votes are expected through the weekend.”

With Jordan in a tight spot, House Republicans earlier Thursday met for nearly four hours to discuss a proposal to temporarily empower McHenry. Tensions ran high in the meeting, with McCarthy at one point scolding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and telling him to sit down.

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), Kelly and other Republicans have been pushing the conference to consider expanding McHenry’s powers amid Jordan’s struggle to secure the gavel. 

But GOP lawmakers — including members of leadership — called it a nonstarter, and the conference scrapped the idea of bringing it up for a vote.

“We don’t deserve the majority if we go along with a plan to give the Democrats control over the House of Representatives,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said. “It’s a giant betrayal.”

Joyce, though, indicated that there is still a chance that the proposal comes up eventually.

“I didn’t hear it was dead. I think there are some of these folks in there who wish it was dead,” he said.

Joyce said that he will continue working to address the concerns of members and bring it up “in time.”

The worsening outlook for Jordan and decreasing options for House Republicans are thrusting the House GOP conference further into unchartered — and embarrassing — territory as pressure mounts to find a solution to the current dilemma amid a war in the Middle East and a fast-approaching government funding deadline.

But Jordan, the fast-talking chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is not ready to hang up his hat just yet.

“We made the pitch to members on the resolution as a way to lower the temperature and get back to work. We decided that wasn’t where we’re going to go. I’m still running for Speaker and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race,” Jordan said after a nearly four-hour House GOP conference meeting Thursday.

House Republicans, however, are becoming increasingly pessimistic that Jordan — or anyone — could secure the votes needed to wield the gavel.

“I can tell you this,” Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) told reporters Thursday, “there ain’t 217 votes for Jesus, Mary or Joseph in there on any subject.”

But allies of Jordan — who was nominated for Speaker less than one week ago and who first brought his bid to the floor Tuesday — argue that he deserves more time to make his case.

“Nobody in our conference can get to 217 on two rounds and three legislative days,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said. “So, I think he deserves more time.”

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