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McHenry + Jordan House chamber

Jordan’s off-ramp

It seems as if reality is finally beginning to creep into Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) orbit.

Over back-to-back days, the Ohio Republican suffered humiliating defeats on the House floor in his bid for the speaker’s gavel. On Tuesday, 20 GOP lawmakers voted against Jordan. A day later, he lost 22 Republican votes.

Put simply, the votes aren’t moving toward Jordan, they’re moving away from him. He has no path to the speaker’s chair — and most Republicans understand that. In fact, there are many in Jordan’s circle who have taken to asking reporters what the Ohio Republican is thinking by staying in the race.

Here are a few things we’ve picked up on during the last few days that could become the off-ramp for Jordan’s faltering speaker bid.

First, Jordan met privately in the Capitol on Wednesday with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry. They’re in close contact and, to the extent Jordan has a strategy, McCarthy and McHenry are somewhat read into it.

Jordan hates to lose. His entire brand is wrapped up in fighting liberals and being a winner. That’s why Jordan doesn’t want to go through a third roll-call vote on the floor, especially when he could lose even more votes, according to more than a half-dozen sources involved in the talks. Jordan’s office denies this, saying he plans to move forward with trying to become speaker.

But at the same time, House Republican leaders feel as if they can no longer hold back members who want to elect McHenry speaker pro tem for the next roughly 80 days. These GOP lawmakers are desperate to get back to work after more than two weeks of humiliating Republican infighting that has cost them one speaker already.

This resolution — penned by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) — would likely pass overwhelmingly. House Democrats have signaled they’ll vote for it. GOP leadership sources tell us they believe a majority of House Republicans would too.

Passing the resolution would allow Jordan to effectively end his campaign for speaker without formally dropping out. Jordan can pledge to continue his run for speaker once McHenry’s term is up in January.

This probably also keeps the other GOP speaker aspirants — Reps. Kevin Hern (Okla.), Mike Johnson (La.) and Jodey Arrington (Texas), none of whom have a chance to get to 217 votes — at bay.

Electing McHenry as speaker pro tem would allow him to oversee the passage of government-funding bills and aid to Israel and possibly Ukraine over the next few months without the usual internal political pressures facing a GOP speaker. Democrats would likely protect McHenry on a motion-to-vacate if hardline Republicans try to take him out, Democratic sources tell us.

This could all go sideways, of course. House Republicans are likely to meet behind closed doors today to discuss where the conference goes from here.

But as of late Wednesday, this is what most senior House Republican sources were insisting is Jordan’s best option.

Conservatives are going to freak out, however. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) tweeted twice about this Wednesday night, saying the move is unconstitutional, could cause political fallout and will empower Democrats.

Roy’s complaint isn’t accurate, at least in some ways. There’s nothing unconstitutional or improper about electing a speaker pro tem, as we pointed out in our AM edition Wednesday.

The Texas Republican is right, however, in that this could make it easier for the House to pass Ukraine aid or an emergency supplemental package that isn’t offset. The stranglehold that conservative hardliners have over the chamber would be broken.

Yet these hardliners have lost a lot of sway inside the conference after this disaster.

New leadership dynamics. The plan we’ve described would make for some incredibly fascinating dynamics inside the GOP leadership.

McHenry and Jordan. Jordan will be the Republican speaker designate — as meaningless as that is — while McHenry would be the speaker pro tem. McHenry will be a useful foil for Jordan under this scenario. McHenry can do what needs to be done legislatively while Jordan dumps all over it. This was the dynamic in 2015 when former Speaker John Boehner “cleaned the barn” before resigning from Congress following years of conservative attacks. Paul Ryan, on the brink of the speakership, sharply criticized it.

McHenry and Scalise. Where do we begin here? McHenry and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise were once close allies. But they’ve drifted apart in recent years as McHenry moved closer to McCarthy. Having McHenry now ranking above Scalise at the same leadership table will present some very interesting dynamics.

Threats and intimidation. Several GOP lawmakers went public Wednesday with complaints about death threats and other intimidation aimed at them and their staff after voting against Jordan for speaker. Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) all issued statements. Jordan and his allies have used conservative media to pressure colleagues to back his bid for speaker. Jordan condemned the threats toward members, but it still hurt his efforts inside the conference to win over wayward Republicans.

— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan

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