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Jordan Jor-Down, But Not Out
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Jordan Jor-Down, But Not Out

The Ohio Republican’s speakership bid faces a possibly insurmountable setback.

Happy Wednesday! We’d like to apologize to both you and Sen. Mitt Romney for the very unfortunate typo in yesterday’s TMD. Declan, our editor, went to the optometrist later in the day and—we swear, we are not making this up—found out his prescription was 50 percent weaker than it needed to be. Once his new glasses arrive in 7-to-10 business days, you can expect there to never be another error in this newsletter ever again.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A projectile struck a hospital in Gaza on Tuesday, killing hundreds of civilians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Hamas blamed the destruction on an Israeli airstrike, and that unverified allegation was quickly picked up by several major media outlets, including the New York Times. Shortly after the explosion, however, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) asserted that the blast was caused by a rocket misfired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a militant group associated with Hamas, and offered additional evidence of their claim with video footage and radar information. President Joe Biden backed the Israelis’ claim in a visit to Tel Aviv earlier this morning, telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “Based on what I have seen, it was done by the other team, not you.” If the Hamas-reported death count is accurate, the hospital explosion would represent the second-deadliest event in the war, after Hamas’ initial attack on Israel. It also sparked massive protests in the West Bank, at Israeli embassies in Jordan and Turkey, and at the U.S. embassy in Lebanon. Hezbollah, the terrorist organization based in Lebanon and threatening a second front to Israel’s north, has called for a day of “unprecedented anger” on Wednesday—coinciding with Biden’s visit to Israel.*
  • King Abdullah II of Jordan announced Tuesday at a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Jordan—and likely Egypt—would not accept refugees from Gaza, arguing the situation “has to be handled within Gaza and the West Bank.” Citing the deadly hospital explosion in Gaza, Jordan’s foreign minister also announced that Biden’s upcoming trip to the nation—planned for later this week, after his meeting with Israel—had been called off. A Biden administration official said the decision to cancel the meeting in Jordan—which would have included Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as Abdullah—was “mutual.”
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday the U.S. and Israel have agreed on a plan to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza without fear that money will fall into terrorist hands. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers urged the Biden administration to hold Iran “fully accountable” for its role in Hamas’ attack on Israel and the ongoing war. “We urge the administration to take all necessary steps to cut off Iranian funding sources,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter signed by 63 Democrats and 50 Republicans. 
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed Tuesday that U.S.-provided army tactical missile systems (ATACMS) were used to strike Russian helicopters and military airports in what some Russian military bloggers have called “one of the most serious blows” of the war. The missiles were secretly shipped to Ukraine in the last few weeks after nearly a year of debate among U.S. lawmakers and internally within the Biden administration, who feared the weapons could escalate the conflict.
  • India’s five-member Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the legalization of same-sex marriage on Tuesday, stating instead that the issue should be addressed by the Indian Parliament. “This court can’t make law. It can only interpret it and give effect to it,” said India’s Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, who also urged lawmakers to protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination.
  • House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan failed to win a majority in the first round of voting for the next speaker of the House on Tuesday, with 20 Republicans voting for someone else. House Democrats voted in lockstep for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, leading to a vote count of 212 for Jeffries and 200 for Jordan as both nominees fell short of the 217 vote threshold to become speaker. Another round of voting is expected to begin later this morning. 
  • Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett appeared to endorse establishing an ethics code for the highest court on Monday evening at an event hosted by the University of Minnesota Law School. “It would be a good idea for us to do it,” said Barrett, “particularly so that we can communicate to the public exactly what it is that we are doing in a clearer way.” The court has faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers and the public after revelations of justices’ undisclosed gifts and trips came to light earlier this year.

The Team in Tatters 

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan talks to a staff member and Rep. Warren Davidson while former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy laughs, as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on a new Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on October 17, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan talks to a staff member and Rep. Warren Davidson while former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy laughs, as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on a new Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on October 17, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

When GOP Rep. Jake Ellzey of Texas named Rep. Mike Garcia of California, his former wingman from their time as U.S. Navy aviators, as his pick to be speaker of the House on Tuesday, Garcia shot him a look—and who can blame him? Although Ellzey had asked Garcia’s permission beforehand, Garcia’s friend had just put him up for what has to be one of the worst jobs in America.*

“[Dirty Jobs host] Mike Rowe would not want to do this job on his TV show,” Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado told CNN’s Dana Bash Tuesday. “This is a terrible job.” That’s why Buck voted for House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, he deadpanned: “I don’t like Tom Emmer.” 

One of the few members who does want the job, House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, tried and failed to grab the gavel Tuesday. Despite a steady drumbeat of votes flipped from “no”—and in one case “hell no”—to “yes” and optimistic statements from Team Jordan, the floor vote Tuesday was an ignominious defeat for the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) co-founder, who heard 20 members of his own conference call other people’s names. 

The House is entering its third week without a speaker, and, although Jordan and his allies are scrambling to regroup ahead of an 11 a.m. vote later today, no one knows when the GOP infighting will come to an end. Until members—likely Republicans, but perhaps a bipartisan coalition—install someone, they’ll be unable to move on appropriations bills to fund the government before their November 17 deadline or pass additional aid for Ukraine or Israel, now embroiled in a costly war after Hamas’ terror attack on October 7. 

When last we updated you on the speaker race, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana had gotten the nod, at least within the House Republican conference—only to withdraw his name from consideration last Thursday when it became clear he didn’t have the 217 votes needed to win a vote on the House floor. “Our conference still has to come together and is not there,” he told reporters. “There are still some people that have their own agendas. This House of Representatives needs a speaker, and we need to open up the House again. But clearly, not everybody is there. And there are still schisms that have to get resolved.”

Spoiler alert: The schisms did not get resolved—but that hasn’t stopped Jordan. On Friday, the House Republican Conference of 221 members voted 124-81 to nominate Jordan over Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia, a backbencher and ally of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. In a subsequent secret ballot, 55 Republicans said they would not support Jordan on the floor of the House—a good 50 more than the five “no” votes it would take to sink him.

As a firebrand whom former House Speaker John Boehner once called a “legislative terrorist,” Jordan has long been an instigator of the divisions within the Republican conference. Largely eschewing compromise and picking fights with Republicans and Democrats alike, he is an interesting choice for speaker, both politically and dispositionally. “The fact that you’ll never be speaker is the advantage—he can always be pure, he can always be the guy that would have fixed it,” Liam Donovan, lobbyist and former GOP Senate staffer, told TMD.

The kind of horse trading and compromise that helped McCarthy negotiate a continuing resolution to keep the government open, for example, is what’s needed in divided government if the speaker actually wants to be effective, Donovan added. “That’s what melts my brain,” Donovan said. “Jim Jordan, a) threw his hat in the ring and b) is sounding like somebody who’s willing to make the sorts of commitments, the sorts of compromises, the sorts of assurances you’d need to even get the votes.” In conversations ahead of the speaker vote Tuesday, some members reportedly thought Jordan was willing to link popular aid to Israel with aid to Ukraine—a poison pill for many of his allies. Jordan’s office denied those claims

Jordan’s detractors, coming from various factions of the party, had a laundry list of reasons for withholding their support. Rep. Buck—a staunch fiscal conservative and one of the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats to oust McCarthy a few weeks ago—was unique among his colleagues for specifically taking issue with Scalise and Jordan refusing to say whether they believe the 2020 election was stolen.“You either believe the election was stolen or it wasn’t stolen,” Buck said in an interview with the Dispatch Podcast last week, after the two would-be leaders equivocated on the question in a GOP conference meeting. “If you don’t have the moral fortitude to clearly state your position and either take grief from Donald Trump or take grief from the other side, then you don’t deserve to be speaker in my mind.” 

A handful of moderates—especially in vulnerable districts where President Joe Biden won in 2020—may have been hesitant to support a strident HFC member endorsed by former President Donald Trump who, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has also been the face of the effort to investigate Biden’s son Hunter and impeach the president. But, at least for Rep. Mike Lawler of New York—a McCarthy backer and longtime critic of House Republicans’ dysfunction—the ultimate vote against Jordan wasn’t driven by an ideological disagreement. It was simply about getting the House back online. “If he has the votes, I’ll probably just vote for him because I’m not gonna be a cog in the wheel—to do what? We have to get back to work,” Lawler told a constituent Sunday in audio obtained by Politico. While he mixed his metaphors—“sand in the gears,” perhaps?—his meaning was clear: He wasn’t going to be obstructionist for the sake of it.

For several members of the fractious conference, their opposition seemed personal. Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri said Jordan lost her support when he gave “the most disgraceful, ungracious—I can’t call it a concession speech—of all time,” after losing the conference vote to Scalise. Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, also in a competitive district, was hesitant to support Jordan after his supporters helped tank Scalise’s effort—Bacon called it rewarding “bad behavior.” Rep. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Armed Services Committee and a McCarthy ally who famously almost decked Rep. Matt Gaetz during the grueling battle in January to elect McCarthy speaker, also seemed to fall into this category: There was nothing, he said Friday, Jordan could do to win his vote.

Yet against all odds, he did. Jordan launched a charm offensive in the leadup to Tuesday’s vote that prompted a steady stream of endorsements, including Rogers’. Wagner flipped too, saying Jordan had reassured her of his soundness on key issues like border and national security and child and human trafficking. A handful of other Jordan skeptics followed, and by Monday, the Ohio Republican’s allies were telling reporters the holdouts were in the single digits—still too many for him to win the gavel, but enough for a decent showing that could convince his remaining detractors to come on board, their argument went. 

Remember Scalise’s pronouncement about “schisms?” Twenty Republicans members sure did when voting commenced on Jordan’s nomination in the early afternoon Tuesday. The roll is called alphabetically by surname, and by the time the clerk got to“E,” Jordan had already lost—which meant the flood gates opened for dissenting members, like Lawler, to take free votes knowing they wouldn’t be the deciding naysayer. Assuming Democrats voted unanimously for their leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York—which they did—Jordan could afford to lose four Republican votes. He lost 20.

The unexpected showing was an embarrassment for Jordan, even topping McCarthy’s original 19 holdouts in January. That historical analogy could be instructive, Donovan told TMD. “[In January], some of those guys wanted stuff, and once they got the things they wanted, they went away,” he said. “And so it’s a question of how analogous that is. And I think similarly, Don Bacon doesn’t want anything, except to not reward this behavior. So I don’t know if there are six Don Bacons, but there certainly seem to be two or three. And that’s enough to make it tough.” 

After the vote, Jordan panned his detractors for not being team players, even as his allies mounted a pressure campaign on the holdouts. “We must stop attacking each other and come together,” Jordan tweeted after losing the vote. “There’s too much at stake. Let’s get back to working on the crisis at the southern border, inflation, and helping Israel.” Some of the remaining holdouts have been facing heat from Jordan’s allies—including Jordan supporters in conservative media and in their home districts—as well as veiled threats of a primary challenge. 

The tactic may be backfiring. “The one thing that will never work with me—if you try to pressure me, if you try to threaten me, then I shut off,” GOP Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart of Florida told Politico. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, also from Florida, reiterated his anti-Jordan stance on Tuesday—“especially now, in the light of these pressure tactics.” Jordan himself reportedly met with Scalise yesterday afternoon hoping for his help, but the majority leader, who was the subject of tough attacks from Jordan allies when the two faced off last week, apparently refused to commit to whipping votes for Jordan.

Republicans don’t appear to have an easy off-ramp from the utter chaos. Buck—as well as some Jordan allies—have suggested a subsequent vote could see even more Republicans peel away from Jordan, but there’s no clear alternative at this point. Several Never-Jordan representatives have pitched elevating Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, the Speaker Pro Tempore, to be an elected speaker for a time-limited term. Though the mechanics and constitutionality of such a proposal are in question, the plan has been endorsed by former Republican speakers Newt Gingrich and John Boehner—and some Democrats in House leadership may be open to the idea. 

The scheme would theoretically ensure the House can pass the necessary appropriations bills to fund the government before a shutdown in November or pass additional aid for Ukraine or Israel. “We’re witnessing the largest land invasion in Europe since World War II, we’re seeing the largest military modernization effort in China since World War II, we’re seeing the largest attack on Jews since the Holocaust,” Bradley Bowman, the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former Senate staffer, told TMD last week. “Now is not a good time for Congress to be missing in action. I think Americans deserve better. I think our allies and partners deserve better.”

But members of Congress may not be feeling that urgency with a month still to go until the government runs out of funding. “I don’t think we’re at a point of desperation and urgency that would compel people to get in league with Democrats—that’s just not where we are,” Donovan said. “And maybe there would be an instance where we’ll be that way, when there’s Israel aid bearing down on us or a shutdown bearing down on us, but we’re not even close to that.”

Worth Your Time

  • Some of the best financial advice we ever received came from our parents, who told us to be sure to set aside some money for “fun budget,” ensuring we spent responsibly but also had room to enjoy our paycheck. But what happens when that fun budget doesn’t go as far as it used to? “Ticket prices for live entertainment events, from Taylor Swift concerts to National Football League games and high-season Disney theme-park visits, rose at a startling rate this year, triggering a phenomenon that analysts have dubbed ‘funflation,’” Robbie Whelan and Anne Steele wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Nearly 60 percent of Americans say they have had to cut back on spending on live entertainment this year because of rising costs, according to a Wall Street Journal/Credit Karma survey of about 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted at the start of September. Some 37 percent of respondents said they can’t keep up with the rising price of events they want to attend, while more than 20 percent of Americans say they are willing to take on debt to continue to be able to afford their favorite entertainment activities.”

Presented Without Comment

New York Post: Wife of GOP Lawmaker Gets Anonymous Texts Pressuring Her to Push Husband to Vote for Jim Jordan

Also Presented Without Comment

Axios: Biden Campaign Joins Trump’s Truth Social Platform

Toeing the Company Line

  • What will the next phase of Israel’s war against Hamas look like? Do we know who launched that strike on the hospital in Gaza? And what’s next for Jim Jordan’s speakership bid? Kevin was joined by Steve, Drucker, and Mike to discuss all that and more on last night’s Dispatch Live (🔒). Members who missed the conversation can catch a rerun—either video or audio-only—by clicking here.
  • In the newsletters: Haley recapped Jordan’s first failed speaker vote and gave a look ahead to the next attempt.
  • On the podcasts: As we turn four years old, Jonah and Steve hold their annual State of The Dispatch discussion. Are we achieving the goals we set for ourselves? How are we hoping to set ourselves apart with our 2024 coverage? And will Jonah ever get his blog wish granted?
  • On the site: Jonah explains how Israel and Ukraine are linked, Brian Riedl notes the dire warning projection models are sending on our national debt, and Drucker provides an update on the North Carolina gubernatorial race.

Let Us Know

Would Jordan’s Freedom Caucus bona fides help or hurt him as speaker? Do you expect him to rack up more or fewer votes today than he did yesterday?

Updates, October 18, 2023: Since the publication of this newsletter, additional reporting has emerged calling the initial casualty count of the Gaza hospital strike into question. Additionally, GOP Rep. Jake Ellzey of Texas reached out to let us know that, despite Rep. Mike Garcia’s surprised look, he had run his idea to vote for Garcia for speaker by his friend ahead of time.

James Scimecca works on editorial partnerships for The Dispatch, and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he served as the director of communications at the Empire Center for Public Policy. When James is not promoting the work of his Dispatch colleagues, he can usually be found running along the Potomac River, cooking up a new recipe, or rooting for a beleaguered New York sports team.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.