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Will the Center (Finally) Hold?
And spare us Speaker Jim Jordan?
“The fact that you and I are living in a world where it is at least notionally possible that Jim Jordan would become the speaker of the people’s house and in line to the presidency of the United States is so utterly fantastic, not because Jim Jordan is some, transdimensional warlock. But because he’s an idiot…. These Frankensteins were never supposed to get off the table.” — Tom Nichols, the Bulwark podcast.
Is it possible… just possible… that the sanity caucus will finally hold the line this time? Will enough GOP normies be able to block the rank absurdity of a Jim Jordan Speakership?
Maybe. But let’s keep the irrational exuberance in check, shall we?
Let’s also be careful to separate out the impossible from the merely improbable.
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So where do we stand on this late October Monday, as we roll into this implausible week?
A modest rump of rational Republicans in Congress seem prepared (?) to draw a red-line at the moronic notion of handing the gavel to Jordan.
As you know, Steve Scalise went down in flames and the House GOP then voted to nominate Jordan for the speakership. But Jordan’s ambitions seemed to run off the rails when they took a second vote — a so-called “validation vote” — to see how many Republicans would vote for Jordan on the floor. He can only afford to lose four votes. But on this second ballot 55 said no.
Team Jordan believes that they’ve shrunk this opposition dramatically over the weekend, although we estimate there’s still a double-digit number of Republicans who are “no.”
Yet Jordan backers are intent on bringing his nomination to the floor in order to pressure these wayward Republicans to flip. They may even attempt more than one floor vote depending on who opposes the Ohio Republican. Jordan’s allies warn that the Trump wing of the party will exact revenge on those who don’t vote yes.
Jordan’s campaign bullying the hold-outs is vintage MAGA, using right-wing media hosts like Sean Hannity to pressure the GOP moderates into falling into line.
“Jordan’s team has the knives out,” one House Republican who represents a swing district said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the pressure being exerted on the member to vote for Jordan.
“I’ll vote my conscience, which is a ‘no,’ but I don’t want to be a punching bag for the next three days,” the member said. “Right now, Jordan is woefully short on votes, and his team wants to beat folks into submission."
Usually, this works, but…
As NBC’s Sahil Kapur notes, “This is where the rubber meets the road. Jim Jordan’s allies are betting his opponents buckle when he puts them on record and conservative media lights them up. Trump is with Jordan, creating an added specter of retribution.
So, the outcome of the speakership fight will “come down to whether 5+ “Never Jim” Rs hold firm.”
If they do, in fact, hold firm, it will be a first for the GOP, won’t it?**
Some perspective: Sure, it’s insane for the GOP to nominate Jim Jordan for Speaker of the House; but not nearly as insane as nominating DJT to be the leader of the Free World. And the sanity caucus has, so far, failed miserably in stopping that.
Meanwhile, Via Semafor: “Moderate Dems get behind temporary speaker fix.”
Wiley is backing a plan that would temporarily expand McHenry’s authority in the House for 15-day increments, and direct him to only bring legislation to the floor that would avoid a government shutdown in November, provide aid to Israel and Ukraine, and deal with the remaining 2024 appropriations bills. Wiley, along with three other Democratic members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, penned a letter to McHenry last week requesting a meeting to discuss the possibility.
They’re also asking McHenry be allowed to introduce so-called suspension bills — which are allowed to head straight to the House floor — “evenly distributed” between Democratic and Republican priorities, to avoid legislation being held up in the GOP-led Rules Committee. Some members have talked about using suspension bills as a route to push through key to-do list items such as the stalled National Defense Authorization Act.
Jim Jordan, Co-Conspirator
As Jeffrey Tulis and Bill Kristol write in today’s Bulwark, “journalists and commentators today write about the prospect of Jim Jordan being second in line for the presidency as if it were a mere political conundrum for the GOP rather than a profound challenge to the well-being of our democracy and a sign of severe political decay.”
So maybe this is a good time to review the record. David Corn and Dan Friedman remind us of the role he played in the plot to overturn the election:
Jordan was an early and enthusiastic recruit in Trump’s war on the republic and reality—in public and in private.
Days after the November election, he spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally in front of the Pennsylvania state capitol. He spread election conspiracy theories within right-wing media. He endorsed Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell’s bogus claims that Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic had robbed Trump of electoral victory. He called for a congressional investigation of electoral fraud for which there was no evidence and demanded a special counsel be appointed. He endorsed state legislatures canceling vote tallies and selecting their own presidential electors. He urged Trump not to concede. He demanded Congress not certify Joe Biden’s victory in the ceremony scheduled for January 6, 2021.
Behind the scenes, he schemed with Trump. The final report of the House select committee on January 6 lays out in damning detail Jordan’s participation in Trump’s election-thwarting machinations. “Representative Jordan was a significant player in President Trump’s efforts,” the committee said. “He participated in numerous post-election meetings in which senior White House officials, Rudolph Giuliani, and others, discussed strategies for challenging the election, chief among them claims that the election had been tainted by fraud.”
Also in today’s Bulwark, Jill Lawrence counts the ways that Jordan would be a dangerous and absurd choice for speaker. Among them:
It’s highly unlikely Jordan will suddenly turn into a statesman. In a 2017 Politico interview, former House Speaker John Boehner unforgettably described his fellow Ohioan this way: “Jordan was a terrorist as a legislator going back to his days in the Ohio House and Senate. . . . A terrorist. A legislative terrorist.” Boehner returned to this point in April 2021, when he had a book coming out about his time in Congress. CBS interviewer John Dickerson asked him about calling some lawmakers “political terrorists” and Boehner replied: “Oh, yeah, Jim Jordan especially, my colleague from Ohio. I just never saw a guy who spent more time tearing things apart—never building anything, never putting anything together.”
In late 2018, Jordan and other MAGA Republicans convinced Trump to hold out for border wall funding in a budget dispute with Democrats. The upshot was a painful 35-day federal government shutdown, the longest ever, followed by a budget that did not include the border money. (Trump would later obtain the money by declaring a “national emergency” that allowed him to redirect money from the Pentagon budget to his wall…
Now, with the federal government funded only through November 17, Jordan plans more highly partisan, likely illegal, and definitely expensive demands for the next round of negotiations. He told Punchbowl News he wants to eliminate funding that would be used “to process or release into the country any new migrants” even though, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent observed, federal law requires that the government process requests for asylum....
Jordan keeps asking Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis to turn over materials in her massive, ongoing case against Trump and all who helped him scheme to overturn the 2020 election, and she keeps rebuffing him. “You are abusing your authority as Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary to attempt to obstruct and interfere with a Georgia criminal prosecution,” she told him last week in response to his second letter demanding certain materials.
Testing the System ‘Til It Breaks
On our weekend podcast: The Republicans elevated fringe players who have no interest in governing, and now they don’t have enough members to get the House functioning again. Meanwhile, the international bad guys are trying to break the system. Tom Nichols and I break it all down:
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube:
Dan Crenshaw and His Friends
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he didn’t make much of the chaos enveloping the House GOP conference over the vacant speakership—or the GOP efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Crenshaw, who supports Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) for House Speaker, touted his bonafides on State of the Union on Sunday, claiming Jordan has “become part of the solution, not part of the problem.” The statement seemed to mystify Tapper, who noted Jordan had both defied congressional subpoenas, and voted not to certify the election results on Jan. 6.
But for Crenshaw, those were less than non-issues, saying several colleagues did both. “If I held that grudge, I wouldn’t have friends in the conference,” he joked. “I was on an island there.”
Ian Bassin provided a quick translation: “All my friends are cowardly, immoral traitors to the Constitution. So I decided to give them a pass and just join them.”
“@DanCrenshawTX, ladies and gentleman, tells you who he really is.”
1. Tanya Chutkan, an Unflinching Judge in the Trump January 6th Trial
Mr. Trump has already attacked Judge Chutkan as “VERY BIASED & UNFAIR” on social media. His attorneys have argued that the judge, an Obama appointee, should recuse herself because they believe her statements in other cases related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol show a bias against their client. Prosecutors have in turn asked Judge Chutkan to place a limited gag order on the former president, citing his “near-daily” social media attacks on people involved in the case.
Judge Chutkan has refused to recuse herself, but a hearing on the gag order will be held on Monday. Judge Chutkan warned in a preliminary hearing that Mr. Trump, who is already under a gag order in a business fraud case in New York, does not have an absolute right to free speech and “must yield to the orderly administration of justice.”
2. Nationalists ousted in Poland: a game-changer for the EU
The centre-right Civic Platform, led by former European Council President Donald Tusk, came second with 163 seats according to exit polls. Together with centre-right and centre-left allies they would have 248 seats, enough to form a government.
In a country where the political spectrum sits overwhelmingly to the right and the left is almost nonexistent, keeping the far-right nationalists out of power is a significant victory for those supporting liberal democracy. It still needs to be confirmed by the actual count today, but it appears the liberal democratic opposition has won.
“It’s the end of the bad times, the end of the PiS rule,” Tusk told a jubilant crowd last night after exit polls came out. “We’ve won democracy, we’ve won freedom, we’ve won our free beloved Poland. This day will be remembered in history as a bright day, the rebirth of Poland.”
3. Can a Donor Revolt Save American Universities?
Penn offers an example of what a turning point might look like.
Marc Rowan, the chair of the board of overseers at Wharton who, in 2018, donated $50 million to the business school, called in these pages for donors to close their checkbooks until the university’s leadership changes.
Just yesterday, Vahan Gureghian, a member of Penn’s board of trustees, resigned. He cited the school’s “broken moral compass.”
The Huntsman family, for whom the main building at Wharton is named, described their alma mater as “unrecognizable” and announced they would “close its checkbook on all future giving to Penn.”
“The University’s silence in the face of reprehensible and historic Hamas evil against the people of Israel (when the only response should be outright condemnation) is a new low,” the family said in a statement.
“None of these institutions are solvent without the support of their alumni,” Ackman said of the brewing donor revolt. “Perhaps this is the beginning of a catalyst for change.”