Jim Jordan (R-OH), the Republican candidate for Speaker of the
Jim Jordan suffered humiliating back-to-back defeats on the House floor in his first two bids for the gavel. Nicholas Kamm/AFP

Embattled hardline conservative Jim Jordan faced a possible third vote to become US House speaker Thursday after falling short twice, as Republicans struggled for a way out of a disastrous civil war engulfing the party.

Lawmakers have been bogged down in infighting which has already claimed the job of one speaker and has shut down the lower chamber of Congress for more than two weeks, with international and domestic crises demanding urgent action.

Jordan -- a Donald Trump loyalist heavily implicated in the former president's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election -- suffered humiliating back-to-back defeats on the House floor in his first two bids for the gavel.

The official line from the Ohio congressman is that he plans to move forward to a third vote and he told reporters after his second defeat: "We'll keep talking to members, keep working on it."

But he was expected to continue hemorrhaging votes, leaving his bid for the gavel on life support and his allies looking for a dignified off-ramp.

Jordan has spent his 16-year career in Congress blocking legislation rather than passing it -- he has never authored a bill that made it into law -- agitating for government shutdowns and dragging his party further to the right.

Mainstream House Republicans, many in vulnerable districts that voted for Democratic President Joe Biden in the last election, have chafed at the 49-year-old former champion wrestler's combative politics.

Several have complained about being targeted by intimidation tactics after voting against Jordan.

Iowa Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks said in a statement she had "received credible death threats and a barrage of threatening calls."

"The proper authorities have been notified and my office is cooperating fully. One thing I cannot stomach, or support is a bully," she said.

The crisis has demonstrated however that Jordan-backer Donald Trump and his far right supporters do not have the stranglehold over the House that they once appeared to exert.

There has been growing pressure from mainstream Republicans who want to invest placeholder speaker Patrick McHenry, who currently is limited to ceremonial duties, with the full authority of the office until the end of the year.

The crisis has been playing out against the tumultuous background of the Israel-Hamas conflict, Ukraine fending off a Russian invasion in its 21st month, and as the US government prepares to shut down in less than a month unless new funding is approved by Congress.

Electing McHenry "speaker pro tem" appears to have enough support from both parties and would allow him to bring measures providing aid to Israel and possibly Ukraine to the floor, as well as addressing the budget.

But Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries would likely extract major concessions -- perhaps even a power-sharing agreement -- to help out Republicans. McHenry himself has made clear that he is reluctant to take on more authority.

Chip Roy, a leading figure in the House Freedom Caucus and a barometer of hard right opinion, called the proposal a "violation of tradition and norms."

Kevin McCarthy, whose historic removal as speaker by the far right triggered the crisis on October 3 argued to reporters on Wednesday that McHenry already has full speaker powers and can act unilaterally.

He was backed by former Republican congressional aide Brendan Buck, who argued in a New York Times op-ed that unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.

"The House's rules, functionally, are whatever a simple majority say they are," he wrote.

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