Updated Oct 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP erupts in closed-door meeting after House speaker stalemate

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rep. Jim Jordan's (R-Ohio) endorsement of a plan to empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) until January has set off a furious reaction among House conservatives.

Why it matters: The McHenry resolution — which Jordan backed Thursday after it became clear he was bleeding GOP support ahead of a planned third ballot — will require support from Democrats in order to alleviate the speaker crisis that has paralyzed Congress for more than two weeks.

Behind the scenes: Reps. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), Nathaniel Moran (R-Texas), Lance Gooden (R-Texas) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) said in a closed-door GOP conference that Jordan should step aside, according to a source in the room.

  • Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), meanwhile, advocated for empowering McHenry while Jordan stays on as the GOP's speaker designee, according to two sources.
  • McCarthy screamed at Gaetz to sit down when he went to speak at the mics, a source said.

What they're saying: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), an influential conservative running for Senate, called the escape hatch an "historic betrayal" and "the biggest 'F you' to Republican voters."

  • "We don't deserve the majority if we go along with a plan to give Democrats control," Banks told reporters, predicting that "more than half of Republicans" would oppose the resolution.
  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) called Jordan's decision "disappointing" and vowed to vote against the resolution.
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a Jordan supporter who led the charge to oust McCarthy, called the plan a "constitutional desecration" and vowed to "do everything possible to stop it."
  • Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), chair of the largest bloc of House conservatives, also opposes the resolution: "We need to work every day until we get a speaker," he told reporters.

Zoom in: Empowering McHenry could allow the House to vote on emergency measures such as short-term government funding and aid to Ukraine and Israel.

  • McHenry has taken a limited interpretation of his role as speaker pro tem thus far, and it's unclear what concessions Democrats might demand in exchange for empowering him until January.
  • Jordan plans to remain the GOP's speaker nominee in the interim — a dynamic that could trigger Democratic backlash as well, given their view that the Trump loyalist would be a uniquely dangerous speaker.

Between the lines: It's highly unusual for Jordan, a founding co-chair of the House Freedom Caucus, to be in the crosshairs of the hardline conservatives who generally comprise his most vocal supporters.

  • Jordan is now at risk of alienating his closest allies in addition to the establishment Republicans and Biden-district moderates who have opposed his speaker bid.
  • Several GOP holdouts say they have received death threats over the past 72 hours, further entrenching their opposition and deepening the divisions within the Republican conference.

Go deeper: House Republican says she received death threats after speaker vote

Editor's note: This article was updated after publishing to add to a quote from Rep. Jim Banks.

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