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McCarthy floats proposal making Jordan assistant House speaker

U.S. Republican Representative from California Kevin McCarthy speaks with Republican Representative from Ohio Jim Jordan as the U.S. House of Representatives continues voting for new speaker at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, January 4, 2023.

Olivier Douliery | Afp | Getty Images

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is floating a plan that would reinstall him as House speaker and make conservative Trump ally Rep. Jim Jordan the assistant speaker, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The pitch comes amid a prolonged impasse among Republicans, who have been unable to coalesce around a House leader for the past three weeks.

The proposed alliance aims to unite warring factions of the House Republican Conference, which has been leaderless since McCarthy was ejected from the speaker’s office. It would also attempt to bring together McCarthy allies, still furious over his removal, and Jordan and Trump allies who orchestrated the California Republican’s unceremonious ouster.

Asked why the McCarthy-Jordan idea was being floated now, a GOP lawmaker replied: “We’re desperate.”

A spokesperson for Jordan, the Ohio Republican who was the second GOP nominee following McCarthy’s removal, declined to comment on the idea of a partnership with the former speaker.

The proposal lacks key details, including how it would be enacted. It’s also unclear whether it could gain enough traction to be enacted by the Republican majority in the House.

“That’s a bad idea. Where is that even allowed?” asked Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., who was one of the eight Republicans who joined with Democrats to oust McCarthy three weeks ago.

While the idea might seem far-fetched — it has not been pitched broadly within the GOP Conference — it’s being discussed among some Republicans after Rep. Tom Emmer, the third GOP nominee for speaker, dropped his bid on Tuesday just hours after securing the nomination.

A source briefed on the proposal likened it to the arrangement Democrats had when Rep. Nancy Pelosi was speaker and Rep. Katherine Clark was assistant speaker.

“Kevin speaker, Jordan assistant speaker,” the source said.

Two GOP lawmakers described McCarthy as having melted down twice in conference meetings Tuesday because, they said, he is losing his ability to handpick a new speaker. He had two “outbursts” behind closed doors, the sources said, that were about his objections to quickly moving to a nominating vote for Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., the runner-up to Emmer during Tuesday’s closed-door vote, the lawmakers said.

“This isn’t how you elect a speaker!” McCarthy said in the room, a lawmaker said.

A McCarthy spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., said he will support on the House floor whoever the party nominates. But if no one can get the 217 votes needed, he’s open to the idea of a McCarthy-Jordan partnership.

“Well, if we get to that, it’s not a bad thing,” he said. “I’ll take a good look at it.”

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