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The chaos continues: House GOP returns to square one after Jordan’s collapsed speaker bid
Members were sent home for the weekend to give Republicans a chance to regroup. But the top House Democrat maintains bipartisanship is the only way forward.
When members of Congress returned to Washington on Monday, House Minority Leader HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-N.Y.) outlined two objectives for his caucus.
The first order of business: Prevent JIM JORDAN—the House Judiciary Chairman whom Jeffries described as the “poster child for MAGA extremism”—from becoming speaker. Second on the agenda? Reopen a chamber in paralysis for more than two weeks after Rep. KEVIN McCARTHY (R-Calif.) was ousted from the speakership by eight House conservatives led by Rep. MATT GAETZ (R-Fla.).
The House is still closed for business, but Jeffries can take solace in the fact that Jordan, the Ohio Republican who founded the far-right House Freedom Caucus, fell short in his pursuit of the speaker’s gavel.
Following a third failed floor vote on Friday morning that saw Jordan lose more support than the previous two votes despite needing to meet a lower threshold due to absent members, 112 House Republicans voted in a secret ballot during a closed-door conference meeting for Jordan to drop a candidacy that never had a realistic path to victory. (86 Republicans voted for Jordan to remain the conference’s speaker-designate; five GOP members voted present.)
“Unfortunately, Jim is no longer going to be the nominee and we’ll have to go back to the drawing board,” McCarthy, who gave the nominating speech for Jordan ahead of the third vote, said after the meeting. “I’m concerned about where we go from here.”
Where the House will immediately go is home for the weekend—a much-needed escape from the Washington pressure cooker that the US Capitol has turned into in the wake of six straight weeks of session that includes a canceled recess.
House Republicans will return Monday evening to begin the process of choosing a new nominee to be the speaker. I’ll preview the schedule and the ever-growing field of declared candidates in the newsletter on Monday morning.
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On the other side of the aisle, House Democrats have presented themselves as partners willing to help Republicans move beyond their internal strife if the GOP put forward a consensus candidate who will govern from the middle, instead of the far-right margins House conservatives mandated McCarthy lead from before ultimately removing him anyway.
“House Democrats continue to make clear that we are willing to find a bipartisan path forward so we can reopen the House and solve problems for hardworking American taxpayers,” Jeffries told reporters this afternoon. “It’s time for traditional Republicans to get off the sidelines, get in the arena, and realize that the chaos, dysfunction, and extremism has to end.”
The top House Democrat added that the caucus has had member-level discussions with Republicans since last weekend on the broad contours of an agreement to reopen the House in case the GOP is unable to do so on their own.
“My Republican colleagues understand that they have to find a way to end the GOP chaos, end the GOP dysfunction, end the GOP extremism, and end the House Republican civil war,” he said. “It’s bad for the House Republican Conference. But more importantly, it's bad for the Congress. It's bad for the country. It's bad for the communities that all of us took an oath to fiercely represent.”
For what it’s worth, these conversations haven’t included Jeffries himself: “A leader to talk to is going to have to emerge in order for that to occur,” he added.
None of that may actually matter, though. Because under this House Republican majority, bipartisanship is a dirty word and an agreement to be avoided even if the cost is a stalled institution at a time when the world is in peril, and the country feels bitterly divided.
The White House reprised its favorite character as the Adults in the Room in this drama, pointing to President JOE BIDEN as a leader on the domestic and international stage who is managing cascading crises with no help from the other team.
“While Joe Biden fights to advance bipartisan legislation that will protect our national security interests, House Republicans are somehow still fighting with each other,” White House spokesperson ANDREW BATES said in a statement following the third failed Jordan vote. “House Republicans need to end their chaotic infighting and instead join President Biden in working on urgent priorities for American families shared by both parties in Congress.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—the political arm charged with helping House Democrats win back the majority in 2024—struck a similar tone: “The American public wants responsible leaders focused on governing, growing our economy, and strengthening our national security,” DCCC spokesperson VIET SHELTON said in a statement. “Instead, House Republicans are giving them chaos, dysfunction, and the MAGA Hunger Games of 2023.”
AMMAR MOUSSA of the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign argued that the contrast between the House GOP and President Biden is especially stark at a time when two allies are at war, another American journalist was detained by Russia this week, and American hostages are being held by the terrorist group Hamas.
“Voters will remember how when world events called for American leadership, President Biden stepped up and MAGA House Republicans humiliated themselves and failed the American people.”
Meanwhile, SARAFINA CHITIKA, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement that every Republican must answer for their party’s inability to govern after failing to elect a speaker for the 17th day in a row.
“With a shutdown looming and crisis abroad, how long do House Republicans plan to waste the American people’s time before coming to the adults table and working with Democrats, who stand ready to take action?” Chitika added. “The stakes are too high for the GOP to continue on with its clown show.”
Partisan spin aside, it’s true that Congress has less than a month to approve another short-term funding bill to keep the government open until it passes legislation to fully fund the government. There are also several other must-pass bills that have either already expired or will by the end of the year. And on Friday, the White House released the details of a $106 billion supplemental request to provide funding to Ukraine, Israel, and US allies in the Indo-Pacific region, plus billions of dollars to stop the flow of fentanyl at the southern border. (The administration is also expected to submit a separate request to Congress for billions more to fund several domestic priorities.)
Tackling this legislative agenda would be a heavy lift with a functional Congress. Throw in a speaker-less House? It amounts to a gargantuan feat.
But Jeffries expressed optimism that bipartisan support exists in the House to pass a national security package once the House reopens while conceding the Senate would likely act first.
“But if the House is not reopened, then it will start unnecessarily, and lives will be jeopardized,” Jeffries said. “This is a serious situation, which is why the chaos and the dysfunction has to come to an end.”