The House of Representatives is set to return to Washington on Monday without a speaker, with no resolution in sight to the Republican feud that has left the seat vacant and the chamber paralyzed for nearly two weeks.
Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, became his party’s final nominee on Friday after a majority of Republicans voted by secret ballot to nominate him as their party’s nominee. But Mr. Jordan, who is popular with the GOP base and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is 217 votes short of being elected, amid opposition from many mainstream Republicans.
As Republicans were scheduled to return to town on Monday, the only thing that was clear was that it would be extremely difficult — perhaps impossible — for any candidate to win the necessary votes.
Here’s a look at what’s next:
The House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session on Monday at 6 p.m., and Republicans have announced that the first votes this week will be Tuesday at noon, which means that then the presidential election could take place. It would be almost exactly two weeks after Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the presidency by a small far-right faction. Mr. Jordan is trying to move quickly, and his allies spent the weekend pressuring Republicans to oppose him to agree.
So far, the math hasn’t added up for Mr. Jordan. In a secret ballot on Friday after he was nominated, 55 Republicans said they would oppose Mr. Jordan in the House. That put Mr. Jordan on par with Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican who first won the speakership nomination last week after Mr. McCarthy, but then quickly withdrew from consideration after failing to consolidate enough support to be elected to the House floor.
Jordan’s allies expect many of those holding on to security to buckle during the vote, unwilling to publicly oppose a Trump-backed candidate who has grassroots support. But some Republicans have vowed to block Mr. Jordan’s elevation. If he lacks the support to prevail, Mr. Jordan could easily delay the vote, just as he did on Friday. He could also try to resolve it in multiple rounds of voting, as Mr McCarthy did in January. Or he could follow Mr. Scalise’s example and just give up altogether.
Choosing the next speaker
The process of selecting a new speaker is low-tech and transparent, as the world learned in January during Mr. McCarthy’s once-in-a-century chance to win the hammer. The entire House of Representatives gathers in the hall, and deputies vote in alphabetical order, standing up and calling out their names. Whoever gets the most attendees and participants wins the race.
If the entire House is present, it means that a candidate needs at least 217 votes to be elected Speaker. (There are currently 433 members of the House and two vacancies). The math can change if there are abstentions or if any legislators vote “present” instead of endorsing a candidate.
If no one manages to reach that threshold, the House simply continues holding elections until someone does. Typically, the chairman is elected after a single vote. But if that proves impossible, the process can drag on indefinitely. Mr McCarthy only won after five days and 15 votes.
Can the Republicans form a coalition with the Democrats?
The 212 House Democrats are expected to vote as a unified bloc for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader, just as they did in January. There is little chance that any of them would have helped elect Mr. Jordan, a far-right figure whom a former chairman of his party called a “legislative terrorist” and who many Democrats consider a partisan extremist who helped instigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. .
Mr Jeffries floated the idea of forming a coalition government, which he describes as an “enlightened arrangement”. But the idea is long. And given that he has more votes than any Republican seeking the presidency, it is unlikely that Mr. Jeffries would agree to concede to the GOP nominee without significant concessions.
Mr. Jeffries said Democrats would join forces with Republicans to elect a president only if they agreed to change House rules to allow for “consensus governance”; in other words, allowing legislation to be introduced with bipartisan support. The Rules Committee, which determines which legislation will be voted on, is now structured so that Republicans have complete control over the bills the House considers. This means that democratic priorities are almost always blocked and that the hard right effectively has a veto over what counts and what doesn’t.
On Sunday, Mr. Jeffries said “informal discussions are ongoing” but declined to offer any details on what a power-sharing deal would look like.
Does Home still work without speakers?
Legislative business in the House of Representatives has been stalled for two weeks as Republicans struggle to unify behind the speaker. That includes working on legislation to fund the government and avoid a shutdown that will begin in about a month if nothing is done. Also frozen is any consideration of an aid package to Israel, something President Biden said was an urgent priority after the terrorist group Hamas launched one of the most extensive incursions into Israeli territory in 50 years.
Is there a way for the House to function without an elected Speaker?
Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina acts as “speaker pro tempore,” a position created after the September 11, 2001, attacks to ensure continuity of government in the event the speaker is killed or incapacitated. This position has never been tested, and so far Mr. McHenry and House aides interpreted that role very narrowly, simply as a seat holder presiding over the election of a new speaker.
Some centrist-oriented GOP lawmakers were working on a resolution that would explicitly give Mr. McHenry the power to legislate, giving his initial role more clearly defined powers.
That would require a vote, and it is not clear whether Republicans would agree to such a move. Empowering Mr. McHenry, one of the closest allies of Mr. McCarthy, many members of the far right would see as akin to reinstalling Mr. McCarthy for speaker. It’s also unclear whether Democrats would support him unless they provide commitments that their legislative priorities will be addressed.
Another option would be for Mr. McHenry would simply try to introduce the bill and, if the lawmaker challenged his authority to do so, the matter would be put to a vote in the House. If an overwhelming majority were in favor of such a measure — for example providing aid to Israel or maintaining government funding to prevent a shutdown — the House could act.