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Jim Jordan's day of reckoning

Presented by Business Roundtable: The unofficial guide to official Washington.
Oct 17, 2023 View in browser

By Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels and Ryan Lizza

Presented by

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

Listen to today's Daily Briefing


STILL TAKING APPLICATIONS — “How House Speaker Became Washington’s Most Miserable Job,” by Ian Ward: “‘You basically have a tied House with no operational majority,’ said [political scientist MATTHEW] GREEN. ‘Everything is just stuck.’”

MORE UNSOLICITED ADVICE — “I Helped Obama Get Re-Elected. Here’s How Biden Can Win Again, Too,” by Joel Benenson for NYT

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is seen on Capitol Hill Oct. 16, 2023. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

THE JORDAN RULES? — We can’t believe we’re writing this, but Washington is waking up this morning to the real possibility that it will end the day with Speaker JIM JORDAN wielding the House gavel.

It’s by no means a sure thing, and we’ll get into all that in a moment, but it’s worth reflecting on the mere possibility that the conservative movement’s most relentless brawler stands on the cusp of the speakership and all that it entails — a place in the presidential succession, Oval Office meetings, photo ops with global leaders, a portrait in the House lobby and real, undeniable power.

Should Jordan ascend into the speakership, it would mark the culmination of a near-decadelong power grab by the far right and the breaching of a new frontier for MAGA’s reach inside the Capitol. It was Jordan who helped organize a band of misfit conservatives into the House Freedom Caucus, using their voting cards and the fire of the conservative grassroots to push GOP leadership to new ideological extremes, while setting their sights on committee seats, then chairmanships and leadership posts, and now the speaker’s gavel itself.

That power was put on display yesterday, in a remarkable cascade of caving from mainstream House conservatives who have aired grave concerns with Jordan, who has spent his career in the partisan hothouses of the Judiciary and Oversight committees, not in the clubbier confines of Appropriations or Ways and Means, where angles are worked and deals are cut.

First went House Armed Services Chair MIKE ROGERS (R-Ala.), who was thought to be plotting with appropriators and other defense hawks to block Jordan from the gavel. Then Jordan flipped another big fish: Rep. ANN WAGNER (R-Mo.), who last week said she was a “hell no” after accusing Jordan of sabotaging her friend STEVE SCALISE’s speakership bid.

So followed Reps. KEN CALVERT (R-Calif.), VERN BUCHANAN (R-Fla.), and DREW FERGUSON (R-Ga.) — all Jordan skeptics we’d been watching closely — and by the evening he’d even picked up a key frontliner, Rep. MARC MOLINARO (R-N.Y.), who declared, “We have to get back to governing.”

To be sure, Jordan still has work to do. He didn’t have the necessary 217 votes as of last night. Reps. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-Fla.) and MIKE LAWLER say they’ll call KEVIN McCARTHY name at the noon vote, while Reps. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R-Fla.) and MIKE KELLY (R-Pa.) are planning to shout Scalise. Rep. DON BACON (R-Neb.) said he’s “not budging,” while Reps. KEN BUCK (R-Colo.) and JOHN RUTHERFORD (R-Fla.) said they’re still in the no column.

Jordan can afford to lose only four Republicans, and many more are waiting to announce their intentions — with many of those bristling at the intense pressure campaign they’re facing from Jordan’s fans in the GOP base, some campaign donors and even media figures like GLENN BECK and SEAN HANNITY, who called the holdouts “sensitive little snowflakes” on his Fox News program last night.

Still, Jordan allies think they’ve got this. Some members might want to blow off steam on the initial vote, the thinking goes, denying him the honor of a first-ballot victory. But they are confident he’ll get there eventually — and well before the 15th ballot. Most, though not all, closet Jordan critics privately told us much the same — they think he’ll have the gavel tonight.

But in making calls last night, we did pick up a note of high tension around how this whole thing has gone down. Conservatives have effectively taken the gavel hostage, refusing to give it to anyone except one of their own — tactics that should be plenty familiar to anyone who has followed Jordan’s career.

As of last night, it seems as though many of his longtime critics are going to do what they’ve always done: fall in line while bitching privately about the hard right’s antics. But if things do fall apart today, it will be that dynamic driving the backlash — you either stand up to minority-of-the-majority rule now, or never.

It’s hard to underplay the stakes. Electing a Speaker Jordan would mean installing a firm DONALD TRUMP loyalist atop the House — one even more willing to embrace the former president’s desires and tactics than McCarthy was, a “significant player” in the plan to undo JOE BIDEN’s presidential victory.

It’s easy to imagine the House moving appropriations bills that would defund DOJ’s Trump probes or zero out various Biden Cabinet officials’ salaries. Or voting to impeach Biden. Or shutting down the government over policy fights with Democrats.

Jordan has virtually no relationships with key leaders he would be negotiating with on a regular basis. In addition to leading attack after attack on Biden, he’s led a cadre of conservatives that has long pummeled Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL as an establishment pushover. And he’s had little to no dealings to speak of with HAKEEM JEFFRIES, the House’s top Democrat.

That’s to say nothing of the politics. Democrats are salivating over prospect of saddling vulnerable Republicans with Jordan’s record — from his history opposing abortion rights and pushing entitlement cuts to his links to the Ohio State University sexual abuse scandal that he has figured into. Already the DCCC is blasting swing-district Republicans as “spineless” and kowtowing to “a Trump-endorsed extremist.”

As Rep. DAN KILDEE (D-Mich.) quipped to us in the hallway yesterday, “There’s probably only one Republican who could be worse for Republicans: GEORGE SANTOS.”

All of this will be weighing on wavering Republicans as they vote today.

Related reads: “Jordan's wall of opposition starts to crumble,” by Sarah Ferris, Olivia Beavers and Jordain Carney … “Jim Jordan has a plan to avert a shutdown if he becomes House speaker. Will it work?” by NBC’s Sahil Kapur … “Google, Amazon, Apple could see antitrust bills put on hold if Jim Jordan is House speaker,” by CNBC’s Brian Schwartz … “Jim Jordan’s remarkably thin legislative track record,” by WaPo’s Aaron Blake

Good Tuesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.


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BIBI GETS BIDEN — It’s official: Biden will head to the Middle East tonight, arriving in Israel tomorrow.

Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN made the announcement last night after a long meeting with Israeli PM BENJAMIN NETANYAHU in Tel Aviv. Biden’s visit comes after Netanyahu extended an invitation this past weekend — one that White House officials said Biden was keen to accept given the need to show solidarity following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Blinken said Biden would hear directly from Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials about what assistance the nation as the crisis unfolds, coordinate on hostage release efforts, discuss ways to minimize the impact on civilians in Gaza and send a message to any “actor trying to take advantage of this crisis to attack Israel: Don’t.”

Amid speculation that any advance into Gaza might be delayed for the visit, White House spokesperson JOHN KIRBY told reporters that there is no agreement to do so: “We are not dictating military terms and operational mandates to the Israeli military,” he said, adding that appropriate security precautions would be taken.

After departing Tel Aviv, Biden will land in Jordan to meet with KING ABDULLAH II, President ABDEL FATTAH EL-SISI of Egypt and MAHMOUD ABBAS, the president of the Palestinian National Authority.

THE LAST NEGOTIATOR — “‘The Only Real Political Solution’: Ehud Olmert on the 2-State Option and the War in Israel,” by Rolf Dobelli for POLITICO Magazine


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On the Hill

The Senate will meet at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of the JENNIFER HALL’s judicial nomination. The chamber will later take up a cloture vote and a possible confirmation vote for JULIA KATHLEEN MUNLEY’s judicial nomination and the nomination of KARLA ANN GILBRIDE to be general counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The House will meet at noon.

3 things to watch …

  1. Lawmakers in both chambers are looking to crack down on Iran in the wake of the Hamas attack. Pressure is building in the Senate to block the payment of $6 billion in seized assets, Eleanor Mueller reports this morning, with GOP Sens. MITCH McCONNELL (Ky.), TOM COTTON (Ark.), TIM SCOTT (S.C.) and MARSHA BLACKBURN (Tenn.) all backing legislation. And in the House, a bipartisan group of 110 House lawmakers are urging the White House in a new letter to adopt a tougher stance against Tehran, Anthony Adragna reports this morning, including new sanctions.
  2. Should Jordan win the speaker’s gavel today, expect growing questions about what that means for the House’s many investigations into Biden and his administration, which Jordan largely orchestrated. As Kyle Cheney notes, “when it comes to both the impeachment inquiry … and claims of politicizing the government, Jordan’s House Republicans have yet to find a smoking gun — or anything close.” One key question that will quickly arise is who takes the reins at the House Judiciary Committee.
  3. Sen. BOB MENENDEZ got some rare good news yesterday after his fellow New Jersey Democrat CORY BOOKER declined to join in calls for his expulsion following new charges that he worked surreptitiously on Egypt’s behalf. “Everything about this makes me feel uncomfortable,” Booker told CNN’s Manu Raju. Expect that to give cover to other Senate Democrats as they pray Menendez simply retires.

At the White House

Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the morning and later depart Washington en route to Israel in the evening.

VP KAMALA HARRIS will depart California for an event at Northern Arizona University in the morning. Harris will return to Washington in the evening.


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Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in Tel Aviv on Tuesday Oct. 17. | AP

LATEST IN THE MIDDLE EAST — As Biden prepares for his trip, Blinken announced that the U.S. and Israel have agreed to develop a plan to get humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza without benefiting Hamas.

“If Hamas in any way blocks humanitarian assistance from reaching civilians, including by seizing the aid itself, we'll be the first to condemn it. And we will work to prevent it from happening again,” Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv.

The background: “Blinken made the announcement after 9 hours of negotiations with Netanyahu that stretched into the early hours of Tuesday. Their meeting was disrupted by air raid sirens warning of incoming Palestinian rocket fire, forcing them to briefly shelter in a bunker,” Reuters’ Humeyra Pamuk reports.

On the ground: “At the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only connection to Egypt, truckloads of aid were waiting to go into the tiny, densely populated territory, and trapped civilians — many of them Palestinians with dual nationalities — were hoping desperately to get out,” per AP. “Israel denied reports of a cease-fire in Rafah, which would be needed to open the gates. On Tuesday morning, they were still closed.”

More top reads: 

  • The view from the E Ring: New Joints Chiefs Chairman C.Q. BROWN is facing his first test in his new role as he works to oversee military involvement in two global crises, Lara Seligman reports: “Brown will now have to balance American military assistance for hot wars in Europe and the Middle East at a time when U.S. defense contractors were already struggling to keep up with demand from the Ukraine conflict. And he’ll have limited lieutenants to help him.”
  • The bigger picture: “Dissed by Saudi Arabia, lectured by Egypt: U.S. diplomacy meets Mideast reality” by Nahal Toosi
  • The global angle: “As Putin visits China, new anti-Western coalition turns on Israel,” by WaPo’s Robyn Dixon
  • The media angle: “It’s becoming impossible to report from Gaza,” by WaPo’s Laura Wagner

2024 WATCH

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott answering questions at Georgetown University in Washington, Oct. 16, 2023. | Stephanie Scarbrough/AP Photo

UH OH, PART 1 — “Scott’s super PAC cancels TV ad reservations as campaign sputters,” by Natalie Allison: “The retreat from TV is the latest sign of how dire the primary has become for a candidate who once anticipated outside help from big donors — but who is now polling in low single digits and hasn’t yet qualified for the third debate.”

UH OH, PART 2 — MARIANNE WILLIAMSON, Biden’s lone Democratic primary opponent with any notable polling, has reduced her staff yet again and spent more money than she has raised in the last three months, Brittany Gibson reports: “The immediate burn through the quarter’s cash underscores the challenges the longshot candidate has had in gaining traction this time around.”

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Sen. TED CRUZ (R-Texas) is endorsing the Senate campaign of former congressional aide and RON DeSANTIS adviser SCOTT PARKINSON: “Scott represents a new wave of conservative leaders ready to dismantle the swamp, take on establishment politicians, and fight for all Americans,” Cruz said of Parkinson, who is running to unseat TIM KAINE (D-Va.).


A message from Business Roundtable:



Donald Trump speaks during a commit to caucus rally on Oct. 16, in Adel, Iowa. | AP

TRAVEL TROUBLES — Former President Trump responded to criticism for referring to Hezbollah as "very smart" by resurrecting a proposal to screen immigrants based on ideology, WaPo’s Isaac Arnsdorf reports: “The proposals echoed Trump’s 2016 campaign, when he seized on terrorist attacks in Europe to call for banning Muslim immigration, which turned into a ban on travel from several Muslim-majority countries when he became president.”

“If you support Hamas or any ideas, ideology that’s having to do with that or any of the other really sick thoughts that go through people’s minds — very dangerous — you’re disqualified,” Trump said yesterday at a campaign event in Iowa.

More top reads: 

  • Trump is back in court this morning for his New York civil fraud trial, but his former lawyer MICHAEL COHEN, who’d been scheduled to testify against him, won’t be due to health issues, AP’s Michael Sisak reports. 
  • New court filings detail how IRS consultant CHARLES LITTLEJOHN went about stealing and leaking the tax returns of Trump and several other high-earners, Brian Faler reports. Littlejohn, who is to be sentenced in January, did so ”without particularly elaborate trickery.”
  • Trump’s legal team told a judge yesterday that the former president plans to sue ex-British spy CHRISTOPHER STEELE for “shocking and scandalous claims” that “damaged his reputation,” AP’s Brian Melley reports.


WHAT DICK DURBIN IS READING — “Justice Amy Coney Barrett says ethics rules for the Supreme Court would be a ‘good idea,’” by NBC News’ Lawrence Hurley: “Speaking at the University of Minnesota Law School, [Supreme Court Justice AMY CONEY] BARRETT said it would be ‘a good idea for us do it’ and suggested that the justices are broadly in support of a set of principles similar to those that lower court judges are required to follow. … She declined to comment on why the court has not yet adopted a code despite pressure from members of Congress and ethics experts.”

GUNS IN AMERICA — “Supreme Court again leaves Biden administration's ghost gun rules in place,” by WaPo’s Robert Barnes


BEACH WEEK — “Youngkin's retreat to mix Virginia politics with the presidential kind,” by WaPo’s Laura Vozzella: “MIKE POMPEO, who served as CIA director and later secretary of state under President Donald Trump, is scheduled to appear alongside [Virginia Gov. GLENN] YOUNGKIN at … Youngkin’s second ‘Red Vest Retreat’ — named for his trademark zip-up campaign attire.”

GEORGIA ON MY MIND —  “Georgia's cash hoard approaches $11 billion after a third year of big surpluses” by AP’s Jeff Amy

FROM THE SILVER STATE  — “Republicans in Nevada are split in dueling contest over 2024 presidential nomination,” per the AP


PROUD BOYS LATEST — “U.S. to appeal sentences of five Proud Boys in Jan. 6 Capitol riot case,” by WaPo’s Tom Jackman: “The government filed notice Monday that it was appealing the sentences of the five members of the far-right Proud Boys group convicted in the Jan. 6 attack, the second such unusual notice by federal prosecutors after a similar filing in July indicating they would challenge the punishments handed down to five members of the Oath Keepers for their role in the Capitol riot.”

The context: “In both cases, the judges imposed sentences well below those recommended by the federal sentencing guidelines, which are only advisory.”


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Jim Jordan's day of reckoning


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