U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) arrives at his office in the Rayburn House Office Building on October 19, 2023 in Washington, DC. Image Credit: AFP

Washington: Refusing to drop out, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan told GOP colleagues Thursday he would back a temporary U.S. House speaker for the next several months as he works to shore up support to win the gavel himself.

Jordan delivered the message at a closed door meeting at the Capitol as the Republican majority considered an extraordinary plan to give the interim Speaker Pro-tempore Rep. Patrick McHenry more powers to reopen the House and conduct crucial business until January, according to Republicans who attended the private meeting and insisted on anonymity to discuss it.

After Jordan lost two ballots to become speaker, a third vote was called off. The House convened briefly at midday Thursday, but it's doubtful now that Jordan will quickly try again. The hard-fighting ally of Donald Trump won't step aside either as his far-right allies stand with him— and some other Republicans are deeply shaken after receiving death threats from Jordan supporters.

At the same time, there is a sinking realization that the House could remain endlessly stuck, out of service and without a leader for the foreseeable future as the Republican majority spirals deeper into dysfunction. The impasse has left some Republican lawmakers settling in for a protracted stretch.

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McHenry has brushed off attempts to take the job more permanently after he was appointed to the role after the unprecedented ouster of Kevin McCarthy more than two weeks ago.

“I did not ask for additional powers,” said McHenry of North Carolina Republican who is well-liked by his colleagues and viewed as a highly competent legislator. "My duty is to get the next speaker elected. That’s my focus.”

Elevating McHenry to an expanded speaker's role would not be as politically simple as it might seem. The hard-right Republican lawmakers including some who ousted McCarthy, don’t like the idea.

“Asinine,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a leader of far-right House Freedom Caucus.

While Democrats have suggested the arrangement, Republicans are loathe to partner with the Democrats in a bipartisan way. And it's highly unlikely Republicans could vote to give McHenry more powers on their own, even though they have majority control of the House.

“It’s a bad precedent and I don’t support it,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the Freedom Caucus chairman.

A McCarthy ally Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., said there was a show of hands at the private meeting asking members whether they would support the pro-tempore effort but it was just “a small number that raised their hands.”

“I just don’t know if the numbers are there," he said.

Still, installing a temporary speaker for the next few months is backed by many of Jordan’s opponents and would give him an offramp so he would not have to declare defeat.

Next steps were highly uncertain Thursday as angry, frustrated Republicans looked at other options. Some predict the House could stay essentially shuttered, as it has been almost all month, until the mid-November deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.

“I think clearly Nov. 17 is a real date,” said Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., who leads a large conservative caucus, referring to the next deadline

What was clear was that Jordan's path to become House speaker was almost certainly lost.

On Wednesday, Jordan failed in a crucial second ballot, opposed by 22 Republicans, two more than he lost in first-round voting the day before. Many view the Ohio congressman as too extreme for a central seat of U.S. power and resented the harassing hardball tactics from Jordan's allies for their votes. One lawmaker said they had received death threats.

"We’ll keep talking to members, keep working on it,” Jordan, a founding member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, said after the vote.

The House has been thrown into chaos and inaction for 16 days now without a speaker — a position of power second in line to the presidency.

“The way out is that Jim Jordan has got to pull his name," said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who voted twice against him. “He’s going to have to call it quits.”

After Wednesday's vote , McCarthy and other party leaders appeared to tentatively rally around Jordan, giving the combative Judiciary Committee chairman the time he was demanding, though it was doubtful he could shore up enough votes.

With Republicans in majority control of the House, 221-212, Jordan must pick up most of his GOP foes to win. Wednesday's tally, with 199 Republicans voting for Jordan and 212 for Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, left no candidate with a clear majority.

The holdouts added to a surprisingly large and politically diverse group of 20 Republicans who had rejected Jordan’s nomination the day before.

To win over his GOP colleagues, Jordan had relied on backing from Trump, the party’s front-runner in the 2024 election to challenge President Joe Biden, and groups pressuring rank-and-file lawmakers for the vote. But they were not enough and in fact backfired on some.

“One thing I cannot stomach or support is a bully,” said a statement from Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, who voted against Jordan on the second ballot and said she received “credible death threats and a barrage of threatening calls.”

Flexing their independence, the holdouts are a mix of pragmatists — ranging from seasoned legislators and committee chairs worried about governing, to newer lawmakers from districts where voters prefer Biden to Trump. Jordan’s refusal to concede only further embittered some of the Republicans.

The House had never ousted its speaker before McCarthy, and McHenry could tap the temporary powers that were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to ensure continuity of government.

The novel concept of boosting the interim speaker's role was gaining favor with a pair of high-profile Republicans: former GOP speakers Newt Gingrich and John Boehner.

The two men have deep experience with the subject. Both were chased to early retirement.

“All options are on the table to end the Republican civil war,” Jeffries said Wednesday.

Jordan has been a top Trump ally, particularly during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by the former president’s backers who were trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.

First elected in 2006, Jordan has few bills to his name from his time in office. He also faces questions about his past. Some years ago, Jordan denied allegations from former wrestlers during his time as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University who accused him of knowing about claims they were inappropriately groped by an Ohio State doctor. Jordan has said he was never aware of any abuse.