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Jordan, McCarthy, Rogers

The plan to block Jim Jordan

Welcome back to the chaos that is the U.S. Congress.

The Senate returns to town today and will vote at 5:30 p.m. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is returning from a bipartisan weekend trip to Israel. And the Senate will begin the process of confirming Jack Lew to be U.S. ambassador to Israel this week. More about that in a moment.

Across the Capitol, it’s been 13 days since House Republicans ousted Kevin McCarthy as speaker. At this time, GOP lawmakers are dysfunctional and paralyzed, seemingly unable to choose a leader and splintered like never before. The Republican Conference has turned into a high-stakes food fight.

The drama among House Republicans is our focus this morning. We spoke to dozens of sources over the weekend. Each of them offered some version of “This week is going to get very, very ugly.”

Jim Jordan. Let’s begin with Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio. We broke the news Sunday that Jordan is pushing for a floor vote Tuesday on his speakership bid.

Jordan won the House GOP Conference’s internal speaker election Friday in a wildly underwhelming fashion. Jordan received 124 votes versus 81 for Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), who didn’t want to be speaker anyway.

Faced with this disaster, McCarthy — still a power player inside the conference — forced a second “validation vote” to see how many Republicans would back Jordan on the floor. Just 152 Republicans said yes, while a stunning 55 said no.

Team Jordan believes that they’ve shrunk this opposition dramatically over the weekend, although we estimate there’s still a double-digit number of Republicans who are “no.”

Yet Jordan backers are intent on bringing his nomination to the floor in order to pressure these wayward Republicans to flip. They may even attempt more than one floor vote depending on who opposes the Ohio Republican. Jordan’s allies warn that the Trump wing of the party will exact revenge on those who don’t vote yes.

Our friend Juliegrace Brufke of Axios tweeted an email from a Sean Hannity producer pressuring a Republican to support Jordan. Set aside the clumsy tone of the email for a second. This effort is so over the top that it may actually push wavering Republicans to vote against Jordan.

Jordan is also seeking to align House Republicans with a presidential candidate as never before, a huge gamble.

A group of establishment Republicans is working against Jordan. Some members from the House Armed Services Committee — led by chair Mike Rogers of Alabama — and the Appropriations Committee will vote against Jordan for as long as it takes to ensure he’s never speaker, according to multiple sources. This includes Rogers, California Rep. Ken Calvert, Florida Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and John Rutherford and Virginia Rep. Jen Kiggans, among others.

Sources involved in the effort tell us that there are upwards of 10 lawmakers firmly in the “Never Jordan” camp. They haven’t decided who they’ll back, but it’s not likely going to be McCarthy. Whoever it is, this is enough to keep Jordan from the 217 votes he needs. Jordan can only lose four out of 221 House Republicans.

Other plans: There’s talk of conservative hardliners using an internal GOP resolution to seek replacement of the entire House Republican leadership team. Some Republicans have also suggested holding yet another internal speaker race where the top vote-getter is nominated for speaker, the second-place finisher takes the majority leader slot, and so on down the line. This probably doesn’t have any legs but we’ll keep an eye out for it.

Other lawmakers have floated electing a speaker by House resolution — potentially by plurality vote. This is complex but permissible. The resolution would call for an up-or-down vote on a specific candidate. We think this is far off as well.

Other candidates. There are a lot of names bouncing around right now should Jordan fizzle out. Some Republicans have floated Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the vice chair of the conference. The 51-year-old Johnson is a serious lawmaker who is well-liked in the conference.

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer is also mentioned repeatedly. Emmer, 62, has been in leadership for nearly five years, mostly as NRCC chair. Emmer has some allies on the right, but many in former President Donald Trump’s orbit who do not trust the Minnesota Republican.

Could McCarthy come back? We’re pretty bearish on this, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he starts thinking about this in the next few days. Some of the eight hardliners who voted against McCarthy may flip after another few days of chaos. But the question is whether other GOP lawmakers have taken up the anti-McCarthy mantle in the meantime.

The bipartisan route. We’ll be honest: During the last few days, many Republicans have told us that no GOP candidates can get 217 votes in the GOP Conference. That’s looking more likely with every new twist in this drama.

So could that lead to some sort of governing agreement with Democrats, as has been widely speculated?

There’ve been no substantive discussions between Republicans and Democrats about this over the last few days, sources tell us. Democrats will want a hefty price to support a GOP speaker — and that price may be too high for Republicans to stomach.

But remember: Any lawmaker can go to the floor when the House opens and offer a privileged resolution to expand Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry’s power, including electing him to the post. And that would have to come up for a vote in short order.

— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan

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