Democrats refuse to help Republicans out of House speaker mess

WASHINGTON — Democrats are standing firm in their refusal to bail out the House Republican majority as it struggles to elect a new speaker 10 days after after booting Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

They’re also dialing up the rhetoric against the GOP’s new nominee for speaker, prominent Donald Trump ally Jim Jordan of Ohio, blasting him as an insurrectionist, election denier and extremist.

“House Republicans have selected as their nominee to be the speaker of the people’s House the chairman of the chaos caucus, a defender in a dangerous way of dysfunction, and an extremist extraordinaire,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said Friday on the steps of the Capitol, flanked by dozen of Democratic lawmakers. “His focus has been on peddling lies and conspiracy theories and driving division amongst the American people.”

House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., labeled Jordan an “insurrectionist” and said he would be on a glide path to becoming speaker if not for the unified opposition of Democrats.

“He was directly involved in the right-wing coup that sought to overturn the 2020 election,” she said, referring to Jordan and the 147 congressional Republicans who objected to certifying presidential election results on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Every Republican who cast their vote for him is siding with an insurrectionist against our democracy,” Clark said.

The fiery comments represent an early marker from Democratic leaders about how they would seek to tie the GOP majority, particularly swing-district members they’re targeting in 2024, to Jordan’s brand if Republicans elect him speaker.

“I think moderate Republicans should be freaked out with Jim Jordan as speaker,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., a member of Democratic leadership. He predicted that Jordan would “push for a national abortion ban” and impeach President Joe Biden.

Lieu also warned that if Jordan is speaker, he would fight to avoid certifying a potential Biden re-election victory in 2024: “Jim Jordan is one of the leaders of not respecting the will of American people in elections, and he will absolutely do everything he can to not certify a Biden victory. That’s what he did before.”

Republican allies of Jordan defended him Friday, with Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., saying “a bunch of us” will help him get the votes to become speaker.

Asked what Jordan can do to change minds, Armstrong said: “Talk to people, listen to people. He’s really good at it. Everybody sees the partisan brawler on TV because he’s on message, he’s an effective communicator, but he’s the only guy that has the credibility with our base to do what we need to do and not get beat up.”

Jeffries said Democrats want “a bipartisan path” to reopening the House but didn’t outline what that would look like. Democrats unanimously nominated Jeffries to be speaker, but there’s no chance of him winning when Republicans have a 221-212 majority. Still, Democrats say the onus is on the GOP to negotiate with them and make concessions if they want help electing a speaker.

There are no serious discussions taking place on a coalition speaker picked with bipartisan votes, according to senior lawmakers and aides in both parties.

“No Republican has come to leadership to have a serious conversation of substance,” said a senior Democratic aide. “This is on Republicans to come to the Democrats to try to find a compromise.”

A quartet of centrist Democrats — Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Susie Lee of Nevada, Ed Case of Hawaii, and Jared Golden of Maine — sent a letter to temporary speaker Patrick McHenry supporting an enhancement of his powers, in 15-day increments, so that the House can conduct business while it is without an elected speaker. But that letter is unlikely to have much of an impact as McHenry lacks the ability to enhance his own power without a majority of the House voting to give him that authority.

Many Republicans oppose that idea. They adjourned for the weekend after nominating Jordan in a 124-81 vote behind closed doors. On a second ballot, asking members if they could support Jordan on the House floor, he won 152 votes with 55 opposed. He’ll need 217 floor votes to win the job.

With no immediate path to achieving that, Republicans adjourned the House for the weekend.

Despite all the chaos in their ranks, conservative Republicans say they have no concern that some in their party may heed the calls by Democrats to join them and elect a bipartisan speaker.

“That’s the thing that gets you beat in a primary,” said Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla.

“You’d get your a– beat,” said Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn.

Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, said those discussions have only happened outside the GOP conference, not among Republican lawmakers.

“People can talk a big game about that. I haven’t personally heard anybody talk about that; it’s only hearsay,” he said. “But I think that’s pretty nuclear. Let’s keep this conventional.”

Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., who chairs the Democrats’ campaign arm, rejected Republican claims that Democrats are at fault for the predicament due to their votes to remove McCarthy.

“It’s really appalling that they can’t even own their mess,” she said. “They’ve been unable to govern from the beginning of this Congress and unable to work with Democrats. All they seem focused on is fighting each other.”

“When I’ve gone through battleground districts across the country, folks want to see governance work,” DelBene said. “All they’ve seen from the Republican side is chaos and dysfunction.”

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