House GOP Drowning [UPDATED]

In a bathtub?

POLITICO (“House GOP drowning as crisis reaches breaking point“):

When Matt Gaetz stepped to the microphones during Thursday’s three-hour private House GOP meeting on the speakership, the speaker he ousted promptly yelled at him to “sit down.”

Kevin McCarthy was not the only Republican to vent fury with Gaetz, the Florida conservative who successfully ousted the House’s leader. The room met Gaetz with booing, profanities and calls to back off, according to multiple lawmakers in the room. When Gaetz refused, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) stood up and hollered a command at him that one Republican recalled as: “If you don’t sit down, I’ll put you down.”

It seems that every day without a speaker brings a new release of pent-up anger from the House GOP, which is stuck in the bewildering position of technically controlling a chamber of Congress where it can’t even vote on bills. At the moment, their latest pick for speaker, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), cannot win the gavel on the floor and yet still won’t end his campaign — preventing a half-dozen or more other ambitious GOP lawmakers from jumping into the race.

Republicans’ inability to elect a new leader is so acute that by Thursday, they squabbled over whether to empower a colleague who they wouldn’t elect to control the floor, only to jettison that idea hours later. Those talks about elevating Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) quickly grew nasty as conservatives accused fellow Republicans of pursuing a power-sharing arrangement with Democrats.

What went unsaid: Those same conservatives are loath to abandon Jordan’s doomed candidacy lest it underscore that their most influential voice couldn’t get the votes.

After 16 days adrift, it was clear by Thursday evening that House Republicans have hit rock bottom. What began as social media sniping over their failed speakership battle has devolved into real fears for the safety of members whose families are receiving personal threats over their decision to oppose Jordan.

Making matters worse, the implosion of the empower-McHenry push leaves them without a backup plan. And Jordan’s disavowal of aggressive tactics used against his skeptics didn’t move them at all. After meeting with some of the holdouts later Thursday evening, Jordan didn’t make headway. Instead, the members opposing him urged him to drop out.

Even so, he’s planning to push another ballot on Friday morning.

When asked if he changed his mind, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) replied: “I can’t.”

“We had an election. We elected somebody,” Kelly said, noting that Jordan allies helped block Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) from the gavel last week.

Multiple conference members, including Reps. Nathaniel Moran (R-Texas), Lance Gooden (R-Texas) and Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) pressed Jordan on how he could decide to stay in the speaker race, including his decision to do so while also backing a plan to empower McHenry.

During Thursday’s meeting, Moran pressed Jordan on a previous vow to the GOP last week that he would step down if he couldn’t get 217 votes — which has become increasingly obvious.


Much of the GOP frustration is aimed at Gaetz and the seven other Republicans who linked arms with House Democrats to oust McCarthy earlier this month, standing against an overwhelming majority of the GOP conference.

“If you are going to blow a bridge, you better have another one to cross. And those eight clearly didn’t have another one to cross before they blew this bridge,” Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) said.

NBC News (“In the latest sign of House chaos, the temporary speaker is threatening to quit“):

In a closed-door meeting Thursday, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., told GOP colleagues he might resign as speaker pro tempore if Republicans push him to try to move legislation on the floor without an explicit vote to expand his powers, according to multiple lawmakers in the room.

“If you guys try to do that, you’ll figure out who the next person on Kevin’s list is,” McHenry told the room, three sources said, referring to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s secret list of GOP lawmakers who would serve as temporary speaker in the event of a vacancy.

McHenry’s comments underscore the quandary Republicans are in: They can’t really do anything until they choose a new speaker, but they can’t agree on someone who can get the votes to be that new speaker.

And McHenry is unwilling to set a precedent that would give future temporary speakers the full power of speakers who are elected on the House floor. It could mean that the House wouldn’t need to elect speakers in the future.

Jordan was supposedly going to call for a third vote yesterday afternoon. That’s now scheduled for some time this morning. I predict that the votes for non-Jordans will increase, possibly into the 30s. What happens after that is a complete mystery.

UPDATE (1216): Jordon only had 25 defectors. Still, it’s rather obvious that the opposition is growing stronger rather than giving in.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Scott says:

    Is it wrong of me to hope that someone brings a cane into the chambers?

    Caning of Charles Sumner

  2. Not the IT Dept. says:

    So which of the five stages of grief ( Kübler-Ross model) are they experiencing now? They’ve gone through Denial (“Hey, it’s all good – we’ve got the majority”) so Anger (“Gaetz you SOB!!!”)is the current position, then they’ll move on to Bargaining (“Let’s take his family hostage, then he’ll smarten up!”), Depression (“We are so screwed”) and Acceptance (“Hey, it’s all good – we’ve got the minority”).

  3. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Scott: You would need a whole platoon of cane-wielders to deal with the recalcitrant Jordan fanatics.

  4. DrDaveT says:

    We really need a moratorium on the use of the word ‘conservative’ in US political reporting. It is misused at least twice in the cited article, and can only confuse.

  5. Scott says:

    @DrDaveT: I really don’t know what the term means anymore. I know I have, by nature, a conservative temperament. I can no longer link it to any named politics. So it is issue by issue with me and I am certainly not on any known or named team.

    At the risk of sounding pretentious, I just call myself a rationalist.

  6. TJ says:

    @Scott: The problem is that the folks who would do so are the modern heirs of Preston Brooks and they’re the ones who should be whooped

  7. Kingdaddy says:

    They’re not conservative, just radical right-wing.

  8. Hari says:

    The Politico story was awful. The headline should have been “House GOP drowning as SELF-INFLICTED crisis reaches breaking point”. This line made me LOL:

    After 16 days adrift, it was clear by Thursday evening that House Republicans have hit rock bottom.


    Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) said he’s argued that “I don’t think there is a single person in that room that can get 217 votes.” The person who is currently closest is someone who isn’t even in the race: McCarthy.

    The person who is currently closest is Hakeem Jeffries.

  9. gVOR10 says:


    The Politico story was awful.


    who linked arms with House Democrats to oust McCarthy

    Even in an article ridiculing Republicans POLITICO can’t avoid Republican framing.

  10. Michael Cain says:

    They haven’t hit rock bottom yet. The continuing resolution runs out when, November 17? Rock bottom is when they go into the Thanksgiving recess still w/o a Speaker and the paychecks have stopped. IIRC, members of the armed services will be doing without paychecks this time around.

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    Republican Representative Van Orden is in Israel today and will miss the Speaker vote. Jordan can only lose 3 votes. Representative Jim Jordan needs to get his head out of his ass.

  12. Scott says:

    ‘No. 1 draft pick for Wall Street’: McHenry’s rise thrills Washington-wary executives

    The hope in the business world is that having Rep. Patrick McHenry at the helm of the House might add some stability as a government shutdown looms next month.

    Was this article planted by McHenry or the Jordan supporters? Because either way, it is designed to enrage the MAGA base.

  13. Joe says:

    @Hari: Stated another way, the person who is currently closest is not in this room.

  14. Kathy says:

    It’s time for a double secret vote.

    Somehow (that’s the important part), get only Gym’s supporters to show up in the chamber, for some reason unrelated to any kind of vote. Then reveal non-Speaker McHenry, and proceed to vote on a Speaker/Biden impeachment.

    It worked for Dean Wormer, didn’t it?

  15. Beth says:

    Can anyone tell me why McHenry is supposed to be acceptable to Democrats when he appears to be an anti-LGBT bigot?

  16. Kathy says:


    Aren’t they all?

  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    Republicans have the majority, so we don’t have a choice of an acceptable Republican, we have (had) a possible opportunity to keep the government functioning by allowing a neutered placeholder to fill the slot.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Jordan now has 19 GOP not him votes.

    eta: Now 24.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Beth: He’s only acceptable as far as funding the govt and getting aid to Ukraine, Israel, and innocent Gazans

  20. just nutha says:

    Gym Jordan is “their most influential voice” despite having authored zero major pieces of legislation in 16 or so years in office? That explains a lot all by itself.

  21. Kathy says:

    @just nutha:

    I suppose he screams loudest and throws the most sh*t around. A regular Alpha monkey.

  22. gVOR10 says:


    A regular Alpha monkey.

    Exactly. They elected clowns, they got a circus, complete with a monkey House.

  23. just nutha says:

    @Beth: I think it was because Liz Cheney said that he was the best choice for Speaker. Liz Cheney’s opinion seems to matter because of her status as Last of the Noble Savage Republicans for her role in the last Trump circus investigation.

  24. Kathy says:

    Sine the speaker need not be a current House member, how about nominating someone who best fits the mood and actions of the current majority. I mean no less than the esteemed former Congressman Herschel Krustofsky

  25. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Beth: I think what Democrats would like, in this situation, is a Speaker who can count votes and negotiate with them, the Senate, and the President in good faith. Apparently McHenry fits that description.

  26. wr says:

    @Beth: “Can anyone tell me why McHenry is supposed to be acceptable to Democrats when he appears to be an anti-LGBT bigot?”

    It’s only because before they would help him they would demand and receive substantial power sharing agreements that would completely change the way the House is run.

    If they actually liked the man, they could have voted together today and gotten him into office.

  27. Beth says:

    Thanks everyone. That clarifies it for me.

  28. tlaloc says:

    Yes it’s a national embarrassment, but I have to say, watching Jordan insist over and over again that he be humiliated on television is kinda nice. Like seriously therapeutic.