Rep. Jim Jordan’s repeated failure to garner the necessary 217 votes, even within his own party, to win the speaker of the House’s crucial position has left the GOP in disarray.
Jordan, a prominent conservative and election denier, has faced fierce opposition from a faction within the Republican caucus. At least 22 Republicans were relentless in their refusal to back Jordan, especially after the Ohio legislator and his supporters allegedly made threats against them and their families.
Meanwhile, across the aisle, Democrats remained united. Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries garnered unanimous support from all 212 members of the Democratic caucus.
As Jeffries aptly noted, the GOP is amid a civil war, the ramifications of which are felt within their ranks and reverberate throughout the halls of Congress. While the refusal of a substantial faction of Republicans to endorse their chosen speaker candidate paints a stark picture of a party grappling with internal strife, an intriguing question emerges: Why haven’t Democrats leveraged this rift within the GOP to their advantage? Jeffries could have clinched the Speaker’s gavel with just five additional votes from across the aisle.
For some, it seems unfathomable that GOP members would vote for a speaker from the minority party. But the failure to secure just five votes has prompted speculation about the Democrats’ tactics and outreach. Were they too cautious, confident, or divided within their ranks to extend a persuasive olive branch to just a handful of Republicans?
Asked if he had conversations with Republican colleagues about a bipartisan path forward, Jeffries specifically responded, “I haven’t spoken directly with Patrick McHenry.”
“It may seem as if it should be easy for the Democrats to peel off five votes from the Republicans in the House of Representatives to elect Hakim Jeffries speaker, but in fact, such a scenario is absolutely impossible,” said William S. Bike, a political historian and author of the book “Winning Political Campaigns, a how-to guide on all aspects of political campaigning.”
“And it has been impossible since 1994 when Republican House member Newt Gingrich changed our politics from a skirmish between the parties to an all-out war,” Bike continued. He said his book details Gingrich’s memo leading up to the 1994 campaign, “Language Matters,” where he urged the GOP to use words to describe opponents such as “sick,” “pathetic,” “traitors,” “corrupt,” and “selfish.”
“This is a far cry from the days up until then when politicians may have criticized each other fairly in public but then gone in the back room and cut a political deal, and then headed out to play poker or have a drink together at night,” Bike wrote in an email to the Informer.
Lindsey Cormack, an associate professor of political science in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey said Democrats have reached across the aisle but to no avail.
“Democrats are appealing to their Republican counterparts to back Minority Leader Jefferies. Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH) called on ‘reasonable Republicans’ to distance themselves from extreme right-wing factions, collaborate with Democrats, and halt the ongoing turmoil,” Cormack stated.
She added that Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) has voiced that it only takes 5 Republicans to join with Democrats to “stop the madness.” Cormack also pointed to a Capitol Hill press conference with Jeffries and other House Democrats where they stressed a bipartisan strategy to manage the House effectively.
During that news conference, Jeffries said, “Traditional Republicans can break away from the extremism, partner with Democrats on an enlightened bipartisan path forward so we can end the recklessness and get back to doing the business of the American people. And Democrats are ready, willing, and able to get that done.”
“The obstacle lies in the fact that the current House Republicans are hesitant to defy party allegiance by voting for Jefferies,” Cormack noted. “Congressional Republicans are acutely aware that such an action would almost certainly prompt a challenge from within their party in the next primary election and result in a loss of support from the broader Republican Party in all subsequent elections.
“Moreover, if the Republican leadership ultimately prevails, these members risk losing their committee assignments. Essentially, current Republicans voting for Jefferies seems feasible only if they completely change their political party affiliation.”
Stacy M. Brown is the NNPA Newswire senior national correspondent.