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House of Representatives prepares to vote on new speaker as Republican Party remains in crisis

Jim Jordan is working against the clock to secure the 217 votes he needs to be elected to the position. But there are growing calls for a candidate with bipartisan support

Jim Jordan
Jim Jordan addresses the press on Friday, October 13 at the Capitol.ELIZABETH FRANTZ (REUTERS)

The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote Tuesday on a new House speaker, nearly two weeks after Republican Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the position by a member of his own party: Congressman Matt Gaetz. But there is no guarantee that the vote will bring an end to the crisis that has engulfed the Republican Party since McCarthy’s ouster. The group’s candidate for speaker is Jim Jordan, a hard-right Trump loyalist, who needs 217 votes to be elected. Given the Republican Party only has a slim majority in the House, securing those numbers could be difficult.

Jordan was chosen after Steve Scalise — the group’s first choice withdrew from the race when it became clear he would not have enough votes to win the speakership. Austin Scott, from Georgia, emerged as a last-minute rival, but he was defeated in a secret vote held on Friday, with the party voting 124-81 in favor of Jordan. It was later learned that the far-right lawmaker had the support of 152 Republicans.

Since then, Jordan has been working tirelessly to obtain the 65 remaining votes he needs to be elected, and has managed to sway some of his earlier opponents. In a bid to avoid what happened in January, when it took 15 rounds of voting for McCarthy to be elected speaker, the Republican Party has been conducting secret votes instead of taking the vote to the floor.

McCarthy was only elected after making several concessions to the party’s hard-right faction, including the provision that a motion to vacate could be filed by just a single member of the group. Nine months later, Gaetz filed the motion in protest at McCarthy’s decision to pact with the Democrats over a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. The measure was backed by seven Republicans and 208 Democrats.

The temporary spending bill is set to expire on November 17, a deadline that is looming closer and closer amid the paralysis of the House. With no new speaker in place, the House is also unable to approve new military aid to support Israel’s campaign against Hamas. Aid to Ukraine is also frozen.

On Monday, Jordan wrote a letter to Republicans, arguing: “The role of a speaker is to bring all Republicans together. That’s what I intend to do.” In the letter, he also made reference to the “five families” — the term used to describe main ideological groups of House Republicans. In 2015, the candidate helped create one of these groups: the Freedom Caucus, which represents the hard-right faction of the party.

The final report of the bipartisan committee that investigated the attack on the Capitol for 18 months concluded that the Ohio congressman decisively helped former president Donald Trump’s attempts to reverse the November 2020 election result. Almost three years later, Trump — who has been charged in two separate cases for election subversion — still maintains, without proof, that the election was stolen.

The vice chair of that commission, Republican Liz Cheney, who represented Wyoming until last November’s midterm elections, has been put forward as a possible House speaker to unblock the leadership crisis. According to her supporters, she would have the support of the Democrats, meaning only a handful of moderate Republicans would have to be swayed. Republican representatives from swing states are concerned that the appointment of a far-right speaker could alienate voters, which could jeopardize their position in next year’s election, when the 435 seats in the lower house are up for grabs.

Some Republicans have been talking about the possibility of a centrist alliance. “Bipartisanship is not a sin,” Florida Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar said on Friday. Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries admitted Sunday that “informal” talks were taking place between members of both sides in a bid to find a way out of the impasse that has plunged the Capitol into chaos.

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