(CNN) — Tensions are boiling over among House Republicans on Thursday afternoon as the conference searches for a viable path forward with Rep. Jim Jordan so far vowing to stay in the race to be the next speaker despite substantial resistance.
Jordan affirmed Thursday that he is still running for the speaker’s gavel and said he plans to talk to House Republicans who have opposed his candidacy in two floor votes. The Ohio Republican faces an uphill battle to win over holdouts, however, and is under growing pressure from within the GOP conference to drop out.
A closed-door GOP conference meeting on Thursday turned heated, multiple sources told CNN, with some members railing against Jordan, and one swearing at Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who led the rebellion against former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whose ouster has led to the more than two week leadership vacuum.
There was also debate during the meeting over whether Republicans should support a resolution to temporarily expand the powers of interim Speaker Rep. Patrick McHenry – a controversial move that would put the House even further into uncharted territory following McCarthy’s historic ouster.
House Republicans later emerged from the three-hour meeting that went on with a new plan: Scrap the resolution to empower McHenry and instead go forward with more floor votes for Jordan. Members left the room saying that Jordan said it was his intention to hold another floor vote on Thursday instead of moving forward with a resolution to empower McHenry.
In a sign of the emotional tone of the meeting, Gaetz was at one point told to sit down by McCarthy, a California Republican, and refused to do so, which led to Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois becoming “all emotional and ugly and was cussing him,” and “telling him it’s all his fault,” one member said describing the meeting.
Other sources, confirming this exchange, said McCarthy “yelled” at Gaetz to sit down. And when Gaetz didn’t listen, another member in the room yelled “sit the f*** down, Matt.”
Effort to empower McHenry also faces opposition
Other Republicans, including some who supported Jordan, railed against him for backing the resolution to expand the powers of the interim Speaker McHenry, a Republican from North Carolina. Some members encouraged Jordan to drop out of the race. There was also an emotional and heated discussion over the death threats some Jordan holdouts are facing.
Gaetz later told reporters of McCarthy, “I think his passions are a little inflamed, and he’s working through the stages of grief.”
The idea of empowering McHenry has faced broad opposition from many Republicans and would have required support from Democrats for it to pass.
Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana called the resolution to empower McHenry a “giant betrayal” to Republican voters and the “biggest F-U” to GOP voters since a majority of House Republicans may vote against it.
Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon told CNN that Jordan “needs to get out,” saying it would be a problem for him if Jordan doesn’t run for a third ballot but remains in the race as a speaker-designee.
“He needs to keep voting and then he needs to get out. He doesn’t have the votes, it’s going to get worse for him, so let’s not delay this,” he said.
Jordan, who has made a name for himself as a hardline conservative agitator, has so far vowed to stay in the race despite two failed votes for the gavel.
In a sign of growing opposition to his candidacy, Jordan fared worse in a second round of voting on Wednesday than he had in the first vote a day earlier.
After Wednesday’s failed speaker vote, a number of Republicans who oppose Jordan expressed outrage over what they described as a pressure campaign against them by Jordan allies – and made clear they won’t be swayed. Several Republicans who opposed Jordan said they are experiencing angry calls, menacing messages and even death threats since casting their votes. Jordan on Wednesday condemned the death threats, saying “it’s just wrong.”
The House remains effectively frozen as Republicans fail to coalesce around a viable alternative to McCarthy after the former speaker was ousted in a historic vote by a group of conservative hardliners.
Now, more moderate and mainstream Republicans are the ones digging in, with some concerned over the prospect of a conservative firebrand like Jordan as speaker and others angry over the role hardliners played in pushing out McCarthy and then opposing House Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s bid for speaker.
Opposition to Jordan grew in between votes
During the first round of voting, 20 House Republicans voted against Jordan. In the second round, that number rose to 22. There were four new Republican votes against Jordan and two that flipped into his column.
Given the narrow House GOP majority, Jordan can only afford to lose a handful of votes and the high number of votes against him so far puts the gavel far out of reach for now.
If Jordan withdraws, then other candidates could jump into the race. Among those considering a run: Reps. Jodey Arrington of Texas, Jack Bergman of Michigan and Mike Johnson of Louisiana, according to GOP sources. But they would all struggle to get to 217 votes.
Jordan is a polarizing figure in the speaker’s fight. He is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, and helped found the hardline House Freedom Caucus. As the chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, he has also been a key figure in House GOP-led investigations.
His struggle to win the gavel has highlighted the limits of Trump’s influence in the speaker’s race after the former president endorsed Jordan.
It took McCarthy 15 rounds of voting in January to secure the gavel.
Some Republicans, however, have argued that given the unprecedented situation the House is now in without a speaker the current race should not go on for that long.
A fast-approaching government shutdown deadline and conflict unfolding abroad has also fueled calls for Republicans to bring an end to the leadership vacuum as soon as possible.