Jim Jordan pauses House Speaker bid as backup plan emerges

Jim Jordan is set to announce he will not seek a third vote for now on his bid to become Speaker of the US House of Representatives, as Republicans look to a temporary backup plan.

The Trump-backed, right-wing lawmaker is expected to get behind a plan that allows acting Speaker Patrick McHenry to run the House for a month or more.

Mr Jordan decisively lost votes in the chamber on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The lower chamber of Congress has been without a leader for the past 16 days.

Without a Speaker in place, the House is unable to pass bills or approve an impending White House request for aid to Israel and Ukraine.

Following the unprecedented vote to oust Kevin McCarthy earlier this month, he appointed Mr McHenry, a top ally, as the interim Speaker.

Members of both parties have floated the option of expanding Mr McHenry’s powers to allow him to preside over urgent legislative matters.

But it is far from certain such a plan has enough votes to succeed, with several Republicans having already come out against it.

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene confirmed Mr Jordan’s decision to back the proposal on Thursday morning, calling it “the most disappointing thing”.

“He wants to do that, while he continues talking to people and finding a path. I completely disagree,” she told reporters.

Matt Gaetz, the Florida congressman who led the coup to remove Mr McCarthy, slammed the temporary installation of Mr McHenry as a “constitutional desecration”.

“We need to stay here until we elect a Speaker and, if someone can’t get the votes, we need to go on to the next person.”

Jim Banks, a conservative Indiana lawmaker, predicted that half the party would vote against the measure and said it was a betrayal of Republican voters.

As acting Speaker, a succession procedure put in place after the 9/11 terror attacks, Mr McHenry has taken the limited view that he can only preside over floor votes and the permanent Speaker vote.

But legal experts argue that, as long as a majority of the chamber is in favour of expanding his authority, the House can function largely as normal.

That could potentially enable Mr McHenry to be the person that shepherds through legislation to avert a government shutdown next month, and urgent aid packages for Israel and Ukraine.

In a House that Republicans control by a slim 221-212 majority, internal opposition to Mr McHenry makes it almost certain Democratic votes will be needed to advance the idea.

The opposition party has not yet announced if it will support the plan, but some Democrats said they were prepared to get on board.

“We’ve been without a Speaker for a number of days,” California’s Lou Correa told the BBC. “I’m hearing the rumour is to give him power until January – I’ll take it.”

Republicans who support the idea have said the House must move on with its business rather than prolong its internal divisions.

“We have to get the conservative agenda back on track,” said Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, who has so far declined to back Mr Jordan.

Nebraska’s Don Bacon, another anti-Jordan defector, said: “McHenry has 100% of my support. I love McHenry.”

In consecutive votes over the past two days, Mr Jordan has failed to get more than 200 votes. He needed 217 – indicating majority support in the chamber – to earn the gavel.

That has been in spite of an intense pressure campaign by outside backers of the Ohio congressman, who is very popular in right-wing circles.

Several lawmakers who did not vote for Mr Jordan said they had faced intimidation tactics, including death threats.

But the House Judiciary Committee chairman’s apparent decision to pause – rather than end – his bid for Speaker may give him time to gather the support he needs for a third bid.

It is, however, a decision that could also affect how many Democrats ultimately decide to back Mr McHenry as a temporary replacement.