Jordan-McHenry deal for Speaker is bad for the House and for the GOP
The deal would provide more operating powers to temporary Speaker-fill-in Patrick McHenry (R-NC) until January, but it would keep Jim Jordan (R-OH) as Speaker-designate as long as he wants, until he can call a vote at a time of his choosing to put him formally in charge.
As long as a House majority agrees to suspend the ordinary rules and, by specific vote, give McHenry temporary operational powers, that part of the deal is fine. It is of utmost importance to get the House back working again, for a multitude of obvious reasons. Creating a temporary Speaker-Lite isn’t an ideal situation, but it’s better than keeping the House unoperational.
The part of the deal that isn’t fine at all is the one that lets Jordan remain as Speaker-designate as long as he wants the job, with him having the sole power to determine when to hold another vote to try to ascend to the full Speakership. It basically would put the entire House hostage to one man’s whim (and thirst for power) for as long as he wants it. And it would do so for someone who is not actually the choice even of a majority of his own party’s conference.
The man who won the support of more than 90% of the Republican Conference was former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. When every Democrat in the House, ignoring the need for government stability, joined a a rump caucus of just eight Republicans to oust McCarthy, Jordan ran for his party’s Speakership nomination (having decisively lost an earlier bid several years ago) in an open contest. Jordan had the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and some of his backers ran a whisper campaign suggesting that the health of his rival, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, was worse than Scalise has reported. (Scalise is battling a very treatable form of blood cancer.)
Despite both of those advantages, Jordan lost fair and square. This means that, at best, he is only the third most popular choice for Speaker among his fellow House Republicans.
By long-honored tradition, once the party Conference’s nomination is made, all Members of the party vote for the nominee over that of the other party. Instead, Trump kept twisting arms and some 20 House Republicans refused to commit to Scalise. With the Middle East burning and House stability needed, Scalise pulled out so as to expedite a return to regular order.
The only reason Jordan is now the Speaker-designate is that he ran immediately again while turmoil reigned, before any other senior Member could organize. Even then, still having won only narrowly, some 55 House Republicans voted internally that they did not want Jordan as Speaker. And after two open ballots on the House floor, Jordan was losing, not gaining, support.
There’s nothing wrong with a McHenry interregnum under the right terms. But if Jordan can’t win now, despite every advantage, he should go back to Square One just as McCarthy and Scalise did.
If Jordan wants to run again for his party’s nod, while giving others (Scalise or McCarthy again, or Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota, or Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York, or whoever) a chance to enter or re-enter the fray, that’s fine. But for him to hold a spot that he won only via tremendously unusual circumstances, when it isn’t clear he is anywhere near the first choice of his Conference, is absurd.
And that’s just the procedural logic: There are plenty of other substantive reasons why Jordan should not get the nod, but that’s a topic for another discussion. The point here is what is fair and right for the party and the institution of the People’s House. No one man, especially one who ascended through dubious circumstances, should be allowed to hold the Speakership hostage.
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