Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) second failed Speaker bid is generating more pressure for the House to take up a resolution to expand the powers of the House Speaker pro temp.
Even ahead of Jordan’s loss, fellow Ohio Republican Rep. David Joyce said he would introduce a resolution to formally install Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) as Speaker pro temp, expanding the powers he currently has as an appointee to the role.
Jordan himself lent support to taking a vote on the matter.
“I think we got to decide today, are we gonna have a Republican Speaker or are we gonna, or is the body gonna adopt this resolution with the Speaker pro temp. And I think both questions should be called; let’s get an answer,” Jordan said ahead of the vote.
“We’ve been at this two weeks. The American people deserve to have their government functioning, let’s get an answer to those two questions,” he added.
The move comes as the duration of the Speaker’s battle has exceeded two weeks, with no signs of the GOP reaching a consensus. Jordan won 199 GOP votes Tuesday and earned 22 GOP “no” votes, two more than the previous day.
“After two weeks without a Speaker of the House and no clear candidate with 217 votes in the Republican conference, it is time to look at other viable options. By empowering Patrick McHenry as Speaker Pro Tempore we can take care of our ally Israel until a new Speaker is elected,” Joyce said in a statement ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
Taking a vote to establish McHenry as the Speaker pro temp rather than having him serve in the role as an appointee would give him greater authority. However, the extent of that power could come with restrictions should lawmakers vote to include any caveats, like spelling out specific powers or limiting the duration he would hold the position.
House Rules Committee ranking member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) expressed openness to installing McHenry or another Republican in the role.
“We’re Team Reasonable. We’re Team Normal. They’re Team Out of Their F‑‑king Minds, and what we’re looking for is some reasonable human being if, in fact, we’re going to go the way of a Speaker pro temp,” McGovern told The Hill.
“We want people who are gonna do the responsible thing, not cheer on a government shutdown, not bring garbage to the floor, but actually — for whatever period of time — that person would be there to actually help us legislate in a responsible way. And [show an] understanding that there are two parties here. The Republicans only control the majority by just a couple of votes, a few votes. I mean, there has to be some acknowledgement, if we’re going to be team players, that we matter,” he added.
Republicans have been increasingly expressing support for a Speaker pro temp vote, with past GOP leaders coming out of the woodwork to back the concept.
“If the House Republicans cannot resolve the speakership in the next few days, they may be better off to empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry with the job of running the House through at least the end of the year,” former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) wrote on his blog Tuesday night.
“Speaker Pro Tempore McHenry is a lot better solution than gridlock and chaos. He should be empowered this week and let’s get on with the peoples’ business.”
Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) said the term “Speaker pro tempore” just means “temporary Speaker” and should be no cause for alarm.
“It’s not just a caretaker for the next election. We have a clerk of the House who can do that. It’s not a facilitator of the next election. It is somebody who can and should act in moments like this,” he told reporters Wednesday.
Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), one of the signatories of a Republican Governance Group letter shared last week backing a Speaker pro temp vote, called the move “common sense” if Jordan, who she has backed, can’t secure the votes.
“I think that we’re warming [to the idea]. If that is the case, and Jim doesn’t get it, then we should be warming up to something else. So what’s next?” said Salazar, a Jordan supporter.
Other Jordan supporters have also backed the idea.
“I’m very aware of the math, and it’s very clear to me that the most logical solution at this point is to empower the Speaker pro temp so that we get back to work,” Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) said.
One hiccup to the process is that McHenry does not appear interested in expanded powers.
“I’ve spoken with Patrick several times about this. And I asked him, does he want this? Does he want to do this? And [he] just said to me, ‘Do you hate me that much?’” Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) told reporters Tuesday.
“So he’s been pretty consistent. He doesn’t want it.”
And some Republicans have expressed hesitation about the idea, fearing it could reduce momentum to elect a Speaker without the immediate pressure of filling the role.
“I think we have a constitutional duty to elect a Speaker. I don’t like this Band-Aid approach. I don’t like changing the rules necessarily. So I want to see the language, and I want to also know what deals are being made in the background in order to get Democrats on board,” Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) said.
“That’s a short-term solution, and it’s a temporary plan. So what is the long-term solution? What’s the strategy to win? What’s the strategy that will get us back on the rails? That’s what I haven’t understood.”
Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) joked that the conference would be heading back to another conference “festivus” meeting to air grievances and expected the idea would come up.
“I mean, I may be there in an hour. I’m not there yet,” he told The Hill.
Democrats have not fully embraced the idea either.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has been noncommittal, telling reporters Wednesday he would need to see “the precise contours” of any resolution.
“We’ll have to review it, but all opinions are on the table to end the Republican civil war and get back to doing the business of the American people,” he said.
The Democratic leader told reporters Tuesday evening that he was hopeful informal conversations between Democrats and Republicans about how to move forward would accelerate, saying McHenry is among the “respected” GOP members he could see the conference backing in the temporary role.
But he said Democrats’ help would be needed as “our Republican colleagues cannot govern on their own.”
And some Democrats warned it may not be an easy decision for many in the party to back a Republican Speaker pro temp without assurances the party will have more participation in major decisions.
“Depending on how the deal is structured, these are maybe career-defining moments for a lot of us,” Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) said.
Emily Brooks, Mychael Schnell and Aris Folley contributed.