USA: What could happen next with Jim Jordan in the US House of Representatives

Hardliner Jim Jordan has already failed twice in the election of speaker in the US House of Representatives. His right-wing clique is absolutely not up for a compromise solution. And so the Republicans continue on a mission of self-discovery. How can this end?

The irony is undeniable. Jim Jordan, star sign wingman, also failed in the second round of speaker elections in the House of Representatives. This is what happens “when bullying backfires,” says “Time” magazine. After all, Jordan belongs to the ranks of those Republican hardliners who have made saying no an art form and thus made compromise-oriented governance impossible in recent months. With ex-speaker Kevin McCarthy, the common denominator had already become a rarity. Under Jordan’s hammer blow, opposition would become the final factory setting.

One thing is certain: the power struggle in the Grand Old Party (GOP) is dragging on. The position of head of parliament has been vacant for three weeks. As long as no one wields the gavel in the larger of the two chambers of Congress, the USA will remain politically paralyzed.

The Republicans are going around in circles looking for themselves, missing the exit time and time again. The hope of an interim solution by January turned out to be a mirage on Thursday. And the clock is ticking – the interim budget is valid until November 17th. Then there is a threat of a shutdown.

Three scenarios as to what could happen next.

Scenario 1: Jim Jordan gets the hang of things

All good things come in threes. The ultra-right candidate should at least hope for that. But now it doesn’t look like Jordan will be able to get the necessary majority in a third round of voting, probably scheduled for Friday. In the last vote on Wednesday, the 59-year-old even received two fewer votes than in the first round the day before. 22 party colleagues refused to support him, a lot given the narrow majority. This time the headwind comes from the other corner, from the establishment, for which Jordan is too right. Moderate MPs who know that a gavel-wielding wingman wouldn’t improve the situation. The result is Lindnerian thinking in Washington: Better not to govern at all than to govern incorrectly.

Nevertheless, Jordan can still be hopeful, as he has the most powerful advocate that a conservative in the USA can have in 2023. Former and possibly soon-to-be-re-President Donald Trump clearly supports his confidant. Trump’s influence in the party remains enormous, and his hardcore supporters know no bounds in their delusional over-zealousness. MP Mariannette Miller-Meeks says she received death threats after defecting to the Anti-Jims. In any case, the pressure on Jordan’s opponents is growing. It remains questionable whether they will give in under this pressure or whether they will even resist.

Scenario 2: Jim Jordan throws out

Now Jordan could also take his hat out of the ring and follow the example of his colleague Steve Scalise. He withdrew his candidacy when it became clear that he would not be able to unite the GOP behind him.

If Jordan were to do the same, he might save himself and his party a lot of pain and humiliation. Because no one can want a second election debacle like the one in January, when McCarthy begged for votes in 15 rounds over four days. The principle of “trial and error”, the method of working your way up to the solution, may make sense in calmer times. In the fall of 2023, however, the conservatives’ nerves are not designed for this.

And so the party will probably struggle through a fourth, fifth, umpteenth round of voting and tear itself to pieces in the process. Because the trained Trumpist Jim Jordan hasn’t had enough. What he leaves out, however: If there’s one thing he’s missing more than the love of the middle, then it’s time – keyword: November 17th.

The question arises: If neither Scalise nor Jordan – then who? Who could this terribly divided family even agree on? The hardliners find the moderates too left-wing; the moderates find the hardliners too right-wing.

Quite apart from that, the speaker position has now lost some of its appeal. The office was always considered the third most powerful position in Washington. But just the path to the top these days requires ideological flexibility and seriously sore knees. And even after that, the traditional speaker’s gavel can still fall painfully on the wearer’s feet. Because it is real, the danger of becoming the victim of the next mutiny.

Scenario 3: Center-Right allies with Democrats

That leaves option number three, an alternative solution that seemed within reach on Thursday. At least for a few hours.

The idea: The center right could flee the toxic relationship with the far right and seek a compromise with the Democrats. This could involve them rallying behind Patrick McHenry, who currently holds the acting speakership. However, he doesn’t have any real power. As a gap-filler, the inconspicuous man with the eye-catching bow tie sees himself primarily responsible for organizing the election of his successor, but that’s not much more than that.

Patrick McHenry, the temporary hammer wielder

© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

With temporary power, McHenry would be able to have votes taken. From a real political point of view, this makes perfect sense; after all, Congress is running out of time. New billions in aid are needed for Ukraine, Israel should also be supported and the specter of a shutdown hovers over everything. The budget dispute, which has only been postponed, must be resolved by mid-November – otherwise not only Congress but the entire US government will come to a standstill.

The Democrats were not averse – anything better than Jordan, was the tone. “It is time to end the Republican civil war, and to achieve that, all options must be on the table,” Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told Politico magazine on Wednesday. Jordan himself apparently came to this conclusion. He is said to have approved a resolution that would have re-authorized McHenry as speaker until January 3rd. A win-win situation for everyone: Congress could finally work, the Republicans would have avoided further embarrassment for the time being and Jordan would have gained time to secure the necessary 217 votes.

However, the cautious sigh of relief transitioned seamlessly into the now usual hyperventilation. Because the right wing is not available for a compromise. In a heated debate that lasted hours, the ultra-conservatives, Jordan’s own clique, strongly opposed the proposal. Jordan had no choice – he withdrew the cautiously outstretched hand and instead announced that he would go to round three of voting on Friday. It is unlikely that this will end differently than the previous one – after all, a candidate who was confident of victory would not have warmed to a different solution in the first place. And so the middle path, although it has at least some potholes, ends in a dead end for the time being.

Balancing act required

“Schadenfreude”. The German expression is also common in the USA, as the English language lacks a specific term for this unpleasant but human impulse that is affecting left and right these days. Since the rebellion against McCarthy, the word has become indispensable for US commentators when they describe how irreconcilable not only Democrats and Republicans, but also Republicans and Republicans, are. Jim Jordan, as the majority of MPs are apparently sure, is not interested in solutions, he is part of the problem. The only question is whether the Republican center can free itself from the ultra-conservative stranglehold. Because from the right-wing perspective, every new compromise would, as always, only be one thing: betrayal.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect new developments.

Sources: “CBS News”; “New York Times”; “Washington Post”