The surprising resistance to Jim Jordan for speaker

[UPDATE: Jordan has said that he is ‘suspending’ his bid for the speakership (not withdrawing) and supports giving the interim speaker more powers until January 15 so that the house can conduct some business, not the least of which is the budget that is due on November 17. This means that he has figured out that he does not have the votes right now but is clearly hoping that by January, the anti-Jordan sentiment may have diminished enough for him to be elected.]

The second round of voting for the speaker of the House of Representatives that was called for by Jim Jordan saw him actually getting fewer votes than in the first round. The final tally was 212 for Democrat Hakeem Jeffries and 199 for Jordan with 22 Republicans voting for various people. Two people who voted against Jordan in the first round voted in favor of him this time but four switched the other way so that he lost ground.

I was actually surprised by this. The GOP is now a party whose dynamics are like those of a children’s playground, where one has the bullies and their allies and the bullied. In those situations, the bullied almost always cave to the pressure because they have nowhere to turn. Jordan clearly thought that having the support of serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) would enable him to bully enough members to put him over the top. I too thought that these holdouts would fold but was wrong.

The Republican party has abandoned all semblance of having any principles and in discussing what is going on, we should ignore any talk of ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’.

You’ve likely seen a lot of the holdouts described as “moderates.” An overwhelming majority of them are nothing of the sort and their ideological views are almost identical. Where they differ is their temperament and tactics. The old way of business – which is still very much alive in the Democratic Caucus and across the Capitol in the Senate – is that you move up the ranks by making allies and getting stuff done. Consistency is key and it pays off through promotions, plum committee assignments, and hopefully, at the ballot box.

In his warparth to the speakership, Jordan has been destroying the traditional system (a common theme in today’s Republican party). Jordan has been in Congress since 2007. Not once during the past 16 years has any of the legislation he’s sponsored become law. Just three of his bills have passed the full House: this year’s establishment of a subcommittee on the “weaponization” of the federal government, a call for the attorney general to appoint a special counsel nine years ago during the Obama administration, and in his first term, an resolution expressing sympathy for Ohio flood victims (the resolution did not authorize any additional funds for the flood victims—it just expressed sympathy).

But in what one observer calls ‘the revenge of the squishes’, that calculation that bullying would put him over the top turned out to be wrong and the pressure actually backfired.

As the GOP has drifted steadily right, their ranks have steadily thinned and their crucial role in making Congress work has become increasingly threatened. Being called a “moderate” these days isn’t even really ideological – it’s about keeping your head down, building the relationships and making the compromises that have kept American democracy on track for 247 years.

For that flexibility – and their willingness to fall in line behind party leaders – they’ve earned themselves a sneering nickname: “Squishes.”

So when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), godfather of the conservative hard-liners, won the Republican nomination to be elected speaker last week, you’d be forgiven for expecting them to, you know, squish once again.

As one GOP aide put it to NBC, “Either he gets it or the moderates for the first time ever grow a spine.”

Turns out the moderates are vertebrates, after all.

Intimidation tactics only took him so far. Jordan has no proven skills of being a leader, just that of a rabble rouser, and a petty one at that with a sneering and contemptuous demeanor. Jordan’s problem seems to be that few really like or trust him. He also has no legislative record at all and apparently has steadfastly refused to attend any meetings at the White House with Joe Biden, despite numerous invitations. Being a speaker involves coaxing colleagues, passing legislation, and meeting frequently with the president. He has zero expertise in all three areas.

His lack of negotiating skills were on display during the time two weeks ago when he and Steve Scalise competed. Scalise won and Jordan said that he would vote for Scalise. I thought that to be an uncharacteristically gracious gesture from him but it was only part of the story.

Before Scalise withdrew his name from speakership consideration, Jordan had offered to give a speech endorsing his rival on the House floor. Jordan added, however, that if Scalise failed to win on the first ballot, the Louisianan should endorse his own candidacy instead of continuing on.

Scalise declined that offer, and word of Jordan’s request – which some Scalise supporters viewed as extortion – sparked frustration that contributed to the Ohioan’s opposition on the floor Tuesday.

According to Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and other House Republicans briefed on last week’s meeting, Jordan said to Scalise: “You get one ballot. And when you go down, you will nominate me.” Jordan’s spokesperson denied that any such message was communicated and described the meeting as cordial.

This infuriated some of Scalise’s supporters and the pressure tactics backfired on Jordan. Even though Scalise voted for Jordan, no doubt to. stay in the good graces of the MAGA cabal, some of his supporters defected, likely with Scalise’s tacit backing.

The arm-twisting campaign, which in many cases included veiled threats of primary challenges, was meant to help rally support behind Jordan’s candidacy. Instead, it has put the Judiciary chair’s bid on life support and threatened to plunge House Republicans deeper into turmoil with no clear way out.

Other Republicans, too, told POLITICO they have received a barrage of calls from local conservative leaders. They blame the onslaught on his backers even though, by all accounts, he isn’t directly involved. Even some of Jordan’s supporters acknowledge that the aggressive moves have set him back ahead of a potential second speaker ballot.

Jordan seems to be determined to hold another round of voting, no doubt hoping to increase the threat level, because that is all he knows.

I keep coming across this photo of Jordan and each time I see it, he reminds me of a dog eagerly begging for a treat.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 04: U.S. Rep.-elect Jim Jordan (R-OH) listens in the House Chamber during the second day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 04, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is meeting to vote for the next Speaker after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to earn more than 218 votes on three separate Tuesday ballots, the first time in 100 years that the Speaker was not elected on the first ballot. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Nancy Pelosi was legendary in her ability as speaker to get things done in Congress even when she had majorities as small as the GOP has now. She said that she never brought anything to a vote without knowing exactly how it would go and that it would pass. She is now trolling Republicans for their incompetence.

Meanwhile Matt Gaetz continues to display formidable skills in alienating his colleagues.


  1. JM says

    The pressure against people who voted against him has reached the level of anonymous death threats. In a typically Trumpian move, Jordan has decried this happening after asking people to call these politicians and put pressure on them.
    I can’t see it working. If there was only one or two Jordan might be able to bully them into voting for him. He isn’t going to get the 20 or so he needs to flip.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Jordan: “I’m huffing, I’m puffing, I’ll blow your house down!”
    (brick house resolutely refuses to budge)

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    … the bullies and their allies and the bullied. In those situations, the bullied almost always cave to the pressure …

    Even the dimmest Representative (in the absence of Louie Gohmert, I’d guess Lauren Boebert claims that title) can figure out that Jordan in the Speakership would use the same tactics even more so -- and none of them is completely powerless or masochistic.

    … Jordan has been destroying the traditional system (a common theme in today’s Republican party).

    Yet lazy/cowardly reporters still describe them as “conservatives”.

  4. jrkrideau says

    I am watching in bemusement on the other side of the border.

    Just how powerful is the Speaker? I get the impression he is one step from dictator for life but don’t really know how the US Govt works.

  5. Mano Singham says

    jrkrideau @5,

    The speaker is very powerful in certain respects. In addition to being the third in line to the presidency (after the vice-president) the speaker has immense power over legislation. The speaker decides what legislation is brought to the floor for a vote and who in his party gets to be on committees and chair them. He also controls a lot of money that can be used to aid candidates running for office.

    So the position is powerful in the area of getting legislation passed. A person who seeks to be speaker is someone who usually sees the government as a vehicle for getting policies implemented and thus is committed to having it function. But when you have people in the majority who have no interest in actually having the government function and would like instead to shut it down, then you have a real problem.

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