By Robert Willmann
Starting at noon today, the U.S. House of Representatives held a public session to try to elect a new Speaker, after Kevin McCarthy was removed on 3 October 2023 by a vote on a motion to vacate the chair, brought by Representative Matt Gaetz. The temporary speaker, Representative Patrick McHenry, has called for nominations, and the only ones are Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio. This is a situation in which the vote has not been worked out and fixed in advance, with the vote being merely a formality for the unwashed masses.
When Jeffries was nominated, the Democrats cheered, meaning that all of them will certainly vote for him. This means that 217 Republicans are going to have to vote for Jordan for this first round to end with Jordan as Speaker.
As the old saying goes, Jordan is a “competitor”. He was a four-time state high school wrestling champion in Ohio with a record of 150-1, even winning as a freshman. In four years at the University of Wisconsin, he won the NCAA Division 1 national wrestling championship two times in the 134-pound weight class. For one of the national titles, in 1985, he defeated John William Smith of Oklahoma State, who later won two Olympic gold medals. I think that Jordan tried out for, but did not make the U.S. Olympic team. Smith’s collegiate record was 154-7-2, and Jordan’s was 156-28-1.
Former president Donald Trump gave Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a private ceremony on 11 January 2021. Trump gave the Medal of Freedom to legendary wrestler and college wrestling coach Dan Gable in a public ceremony on 7 December 2020. I think that Jordan recommended to Trump that he give the award to Gable, who really did have an extraordinary career.
You can tell by the way he questions witnesses before a House committee that Jordan did not have much courtroom experience, or experience in a questioning session with an informant or other person in an intelligence gathering or law enforcement setting. But he is not afraid to ask questions, and he often uses chronologies when doing so.
My preference is for a representative who is not interested in being Speaker — Thomas Massie of Kentucky — who is more courageous on some issues. He appears mild-mannered, but has nailed some of the more slippery characters in Washington DC in committee hearings, including Attorney General Merrick Garland. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Massie founded a company that enabled persons to interact with computers using their sense of touch.
Only one vote was held, and since Jordan received 200 votes and not the required 217 to win, no Speaker was chosen. From the verbal announcement by Speaker pro tempore McHenry, Jordan got 200 votes, Jeffries (the Democrat) got 212, and around seven others got votes. McHenry is close to former Speaker McCarthy, who had appointed him Speaker pro tempore. He did not call for another vote. When McCarthy was trying to be Speaker, numerous public votes were held, one after the other. But McHenry announced that the House was in recess, subject to the call of the Chair. In other words, he was not going to authorize additional rounds of voting that would allow Jordan’s supporters an opportunity to wrangle additional votes. McHenry was angry when his friend McCarthy was removed as Speaker.
When the roll call vote is posted, we will be able to see how Jordan was blocked. From the verbal announcement by McHenry when the voting ended, there may have been four Republicans who received votes that when added together, prevented Jordan from winning, even though they were not nominated for the position.
The theater of the snake pit will continue.