Texas Republicans oppose a temporary speaker as U.S. House struggles to find leadership

A plan to give House speaker pro tempore Patrick McHenry, R-NC, the power of the speaker drew opposition from several Texas Republicans in the U.S. House. (Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz, Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz)

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WASHINGTON — Several Texas Republicans oppose a proposal to install a temporary speaker of the House, insisting Thursday that their party should keep working to elect a permanent leader.

“I don't want to empower someone that wasn't elected the speaker to have speaker responsibilities,” U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Sherman, said Thursday outside of a Republican conference meeting on selecting the next House leader. “Hell no. Hades no!”

“We’ve never empowered a Speaker-pro-tem with full powers w/o having chosen a duly elected Speaker,” U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, said on social media, adding that having House Republicans join Democrats to do so “not only raises constitutional concerns, but represents an unforgivable step to coalition government & likely decimation in 2024.”

“That just kicks the can down the road,” U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Richmond, said outside the conference meeting. “I like the idea of staying in there, take your jackets off, pack some lunches, get some bag lunches in here, and we don't eat there till we get a speaker. How about that?”

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, proposed giving speaker pro tempore Patrick McHenry of North Carolina the full powers of the speaker while the party deliberates on who should take the gavel for the rest of the congressional session. Jordan, the leading Republican candidate for speaker, failed twice to achieve the House majority needed to secure the position.

McHenry’s powers are currently limited to overseeing the selection of the next speaker.

Empowering McHenry would allow the House to act on legislation, which is currently paused without a full speaker. Members of both parties expressed deep concern about the legislative standstill, with federal funding expiring in less than a month and Israel requesting military aid in its war with Hamas.

Still, Fallon estimated that about two-thirds of House Republicans oppose the plan, saying it would essentially hand power to the Democrats. The move would require considerable buy-in from Democrats to reach the 217-vote majority needed to pass.

Several Republicans warned that doing so would be indefensible to constituents who voted for a GOP House majority. Several who voted against Jordan for speaker also reported receiving death threats to pressure them to support the Republican front-runner.

“How many phone calls need to be made for the Establishment to realize that the people want JORDAN?” Rep. Keith Self, R-McKinney, posted on social media. “They do not want: A temporary speaker [or] Deals cut with Democrats.”

But by Thursday, there was no other immediate path forward. Twenty Republicans declined to support Jordan in the first election for speaker Tuesday. That number grew to 22 in the second round Wednesday. Jordan canceled a third vote Thursday to stem the hemorrhaging, calling a conference-wide meeting where he announced a plan to empower McHenry.

Empowering McHenry would be a temporary measure to give Jordan time to whip more votes to become the full speaker. Republicans who support the measure were divided in how long McHenry should be empowered, with some saying he should have authority until January and others floating a November date — just enough time to pass federal funding legislation.

Federal funding has played a central role in the opposition to Jordan. The three Texas Republicans who voted against Jordan’s bid — Reps. Kay Granger, Jake Ellzey and Tony Gonzales — are members of the House Appropriations Committee, which allocates federal money for government programs. Granger is chair of the committee and has a strong working relationship with her Democratic and Senate counterparts.

Jordan, on the other hand, has made his mark in Congress advocating for drastically slashing government spending.

“It’s no secret that Washington likes spending money and so fiscal conservatives sometimes may have a hard time,” said U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Victoria, a deeply conservative member of the Appropriations Committee who supported Jordan.

Ellzey, Gonzales and Granger have avoided discussing the speaker race.