House Enters Third Week of Speakerless Chaos as Mideast Violence Escalates
Jim Jordan’s candidacy in jeopardy as Republicans again fail to agree on House leader
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Oct 19, 2023
Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) was seen in the House chamber Tuesday evening as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), her pick for speaker, lost his first attempt to win the gavel. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
By Jacob Gardenswartz
Special to the Wyoming Truth
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives enters its sixteenth day without a permanent speaker on Thursday, and while the chamber is paralyzed by Republicans’ infighting, the list of international and domestic crises has only grown.
With interim Speaker Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) unable to move legislation to the floor, all progress on government appropriations — set to expire Nov. 17 — has ground to a halt.
Meanwhile the situation in the Middle East has only worsened, as the death toll from Hamas’ attack on Israel and the nation’s subsequent offensive in Gaza continues to climb. Conflicting accounts of who’s responsible for Tuesday’s deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza City has threatened any efforts to de-escalate tensions, as Palestinians and Israelis each try to place blame at the other’s feet.
Early intelligence corroborates the Israeli military’s claim that the blast was caused by an errant rocket from Palestinian militants, U.S. officials said Wednesday, though they cautioned that such a determination was preliminary and their investigation was ongoing.
In Washington on Wednesday, the focus in the House was again on electing a speaker. Yet for the third time in a row, Republicans came up short. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a founding member of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, lost his second vote in a matter of two days, receiving even fewer backers than he did during the first failed attempt on Tuesday.
“We picked up some today, a couple dropped off, but they voted for me before,” Jordan told reporters after leaving the floor. “I think they can come back again. So we’ll keep talking to members. Keep working on it.”
A third vote on Jordan’s candidacy was expected to take place Thursday, though it remains unclear whether and how the situation this time around would be different.
Wyoming officials watching, waiting
Wyoming’s political leaders have responded to the House chaos as many Republicans have — attempting to project calm amid historic dysfunction.
Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) remains a loyal supporter of Jordan, with whom she serves on the Judiciary Committee and “weaponization” subcommittee. Though she did vote for Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) after he was initially nominated for the speakership by a majority of House Republicans, Hageman noted in an email to supporters over the weekend that “it became clear as the week progressed… his path to receiving the 217 votes needed to become Speaker was highly unlikely.”
“While I am disappointed that we have not yet been able to move this process forward and address the pressing issues facing our government and the world, I am encouraged and hopeful that my choice for House Speaker, Jim Jordan, will be able to gather the support needed to lead our conference and the House of Representatives,” Hageman added. “Jim is the right person to lead us as we fight back against radical leftist ideology and an overbearing administration… his commitment to the conservative cause is unquestionable, and he has been a fervent advocate and mentor to me from the moment I began my congressional campaign.”
Unfortunately for Hageman and Jordan, not enough of their Republican colleagues agreed. Jordan received 199 votes on Wednesday, well short of the 217 required to win the speaker’s gavel, with the vote representing the first time in 100 years that a majority party nominee received fewer than 200 votes. Twenty-two Republicans opted for other speaker candidates, though there was no consensus on the non-Jordan alternative; Jordan holdouts backed individuals ranging from current lawmakers to former GOP leaders to the current Public Works Commissioner of Macomb County, Michigan.
Though former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)’s name continues to float around cable news discussion panels as a possible “consensus” speaker candidate, appointing a former lawmaker to the post remains exceedingly unlikely.
Cheney herself has been highly critical of Jordan, writing on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, that “If Rs nominate Jordan to be Speaker, they will be abandoning the Constitution. They’ll lose the House majority and they’ll deserve to.”
Hageman, meanwhile, shot down any speculation of her predecessor ascending to top GOP leader, posting on X that she’s only popular in two locales: “Corporate Media Green Rooms” and “Liberal Academic Symposiums.”
On the Senate side, Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) continue to try to press forward with responses to the violence in Israel and Gaza, seeking to tie the Biden administration to the violence — though any such legislative efforts are moot without a House speaker.
Both lawmakers signed onto a bill Wednesday to freeze $6 billion the Biden administration released to Iran last month as a part of a prisoner swap, suggesting that money may have been used to support Palestinian militants.
“The administration’s appeasement strategy towards Iran has enabled Iran to fund Hamas and Hezbollah in their attacks on Israel,” Barrasso said in a press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday.
U.S. officials have said there’s no evidence for direct Iranian support of the attacks, and have already moved to halt the funding.
McHenry waiting in the wings
Despite Jordan’s several setbacks to becoming speaker, the Ohioan has shown no intentions of backing down — at least for now.
The chamber is set to reconvene Thursday at noon for another vote, and speaking to reporters Wednesday evening Jordan pledged to “keep going until we get a speaker.”
But elsewhere in the conference, some lawmakers appeared antsy for a different outcome. Increasingly, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have discussed a resolution to temporarily impower the interim Speaker McHenry with more fulsome powers, which would enable him to preside over the House to address the urgent crises at home and abroad.
Whether and how that could happen depends on Jordan, and the will of his colleagues. Hageman did not respond to the Wyoming Truth’s inquiries about whether she’d support such an effort.
President Joe Biden, for his part, spoke out on Jordan’s candidacy Wednesday during impromptu remarks to reporters traveling with him on Air Force One back to Washington from Israel.
Asked if he had any views of Jordan’s predicament, Biden responded sarcastically: “I ache for him.”
“No,” he added, more fully answering the question. “Zero. None.”