Washington Wednesday: Jim Jordan loses the first speaker vote
Plus, the Senate considers a controversial appointment for ambassador to Israel and Donald Trump is hit with a partial gag order related to the federal Jan. 6 case
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday, October 18th, 2023. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
PAUL BUTER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. It’s Washington Wednesday. The Senate is set to hold a confirmation hearing to appoint an ambassador to Israel, but is Biden’s nominee too soft on Iran? Plus, Former President Trump is hit with a partial gag order in the federal case related to January 6th.
REICHARD: But first, following the twists and turns of the Speaker’s race in the House.
Joining us now to talk about what’s going on in D.C. is Washington Bureau reporter Carolina Lumetta. Good morning!
CAROLINA LUMETTA, REPORTER: Good morning, Mary!
REICHARD: Well, it's been just over two weeks now since eight Republicans joined House Democrats in a vote to remove speaker Kevin McCarthy. And issues like the war in Israel are ratcheting up the pressure now. Well, yesterday afternoon the House held a vote to try to get a new speaker installed. Carolina, you were in the chamber for yesterday's vote. Can you summarize what happened during that first round?
LUMETTA: Well, after about a week of closed door meetings and back channel talks, the Republicans finally chose Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan as the nominee for speaker. But yesterday afternoon, he failed that first ballot with 20 defectors, which we're getting the impression that's a lot more than even his allies had anticipated. For those of us who've been covering Congress, this is giving us some deja vu from January, when it took Kevin McCarthy 15 tries to get the speakership. It's unlikely that we'll go to 15 rounds again, but we really don't know how long it will take for Jordan to either win those defectors or for them to pick a new person. With a very narrow Republican majority and full Democratic attendance, he can only afford to lose three votes.
REICHARD: I'm wondering what was the mood in the room like throughout all of this process, anything that C-SPAN cameras might have missed?
LUMETTA: Ironically, it was Kevin McCarthy who was the most chipper person in the room. He was all smiles, handshakes, talking to a lot of people and sitting right behind Jim Jordan as all the votes came in. As the tally continued, the mood got a lot more intense, especially on the GOP side. There was also a lot of confusion about some of these Republican votes. There was one member who nominated Mike Garcia sat up a little straight, turned around behind him and mouthed “What?” So it was a surprise even on the floor. Most of the time when votes come to the house, we know exactly how they're going to go. There's no roadmap right now. After the votes I asked Florida Congressman Byron Donalds, about why he's voting for Jordan, he's taking his cues from Jordans camp. He's also surprised by how many fell away but he said this isn't necessarily a bad look for Republicans.
DONALDS: Look, I've been saying to y'all for a while, the days of just "oh, this is our person, everybody's just gonna rally," those days are over. Members are going to want to have real conversations with with whoever is going to try to go into leadership. And quite frankly, the members should have these conversations. Because, you know, we don't work for the leadership. The leadership didn't elect us to be here. We were elected by the people who sent us here. And we have to represent those interests.
REICHARD: What else did you hear from lawmakers you spoke to after the vote?
LUMETTA: It's really interesting this time around because, unlike with McCarthy's original vote, there's no single issue that everyone has against Jim Jordan. And just for some brief background reminder, Jim Jordan is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, which is also part of the group that led the effort to vacate the chair and remove McCarthy. But it's not a House Freedom Caucus issue this time around. Some of the people who are voting against him are simply upset that the House Freedom Caucus had that power to do that about two weeks ago. Others simply don't like Jordan. There are also just a lot of pressure campaigns over the weekend that also soured some members. One of them was Florida Congressman Mario Diaz Ballard, who voted for Scalise and here's his explanation for why:
DIAZ-BALART: That millisecond when anybody tries to intimidate me is the moment where I am no longer, I no longer have the flexibility. I will not be pressured or intimidated. I am where I am. I have no intention of moving. I have been transparent from day one.
LUMETTA: I also was able to talk to Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson. He's known for helping to whip votes. He's inside all of these negotiations, and talking with each of these detractors. Here's also what he had to say right before he hopped into an elevator.
JOHNSON: I'm an optimist and I remain very hopeful. I'm trying to help him as much as I can.
LUMETTA: Was it a lot longer than you thought it might be?
JOHNSON: Well, we expected it would be there's a lot of frustration and anger about the just events that have transpired over the last few weeks and and some people expressed their frustration with their vote. And so we just have a lot of issues to work through as a conference. So we'll do that. We're, we're working on it.
REICHARD: So the goal is to get everyone unified. But what's the next step for this race?
LUMETTA: Officially, the next step is voting again at 11am this morning. There will be a quorum call then followed by the same vote process. And we'll see where that where people land after a night of negotiations. The fact that Jordan waited until today to hold the second vote means that there was a lot of work to be doing.
REICHARD: Well, let's cross over to the Senate now - another story that you are following is the nomination hearing of a new ambassador to Israel. Democrats want to fast track this confirmation process, but some Republicans have concerns. What's the background of this story?
LUMETTA: Right, so last month, President Joe Biden nominated Jack Lew to be Israel's next ambassador, and now with Israel in the midst of a war, the Senate is really hoping to speed this through, make sure they get somebody into that post. However, Jack Lew is not without his controversial past. He was a former Secretary of the Treasury under the Obama administration, and in 2016, he was the man in charge of facilitating a cash settlement to Iran in the amount of about $5.7 billion. Iran was not allowed to get this money through any U.S. banks. Lew has been accused of misleading Congress and using some backchannels to convert that U.S. money to Iranian currency. A 2018 Senate report found that he had issued specific licenses and pressured U.S. correspondent banks to help convert that money and get it to Iran. And that kind of has soured him for at least Republican support ever since. Tom Cotton is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he gave this comments to Fox News on Sunday.
COTTON: Jack Lew is an Iran sympathizer who has no business being our ambassador. It's bad for the United States. It's bad for Israel to have an Iran sympathizer as our ambassador to that country.
LUMETTA: However, Senator Ben Cardin is a Democrat also on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he spoke for his party saying that we just need somebody in this role as soon as possible. The war is too important to leave it empty.
REICHARD: Alright, one more story from Washington. On Monday federal district court judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee, imposed a partial gag order on former President Donald Trump. Later in the day, Trump responded this way while campaigning in the city of Clive, Iowa:
TRUMP: I'll be the only politician in history that runs with a gag order where I'm not allowed to criticize people. Can you imagine this, that you believe this? I'm not allowed to criticize people. So we'll see. We'll appeal it. And we'll see, but it's so, so unconstitutional.
REICHARD: Carolina, what does this gag order do and doesn't really limit Trump's first amendment liberties.
LUMETTA: So this is a partial gag order, which means it's limited to the people involved in the case. But it does not apply to DC residents at large. It does not apply to the Biden administration at large. Basically, this means that if former President Trump chooses to, he can still call any of these indictments, political persecution, he can still criticize the Justice Department. However, he cannot extend that to any direct comments about court staff, prosecutors, potential witnesses. For example, if he went on to Truth Social and continue to call Special Counsel Jack Smith, deranged, that could violate this gag order, because it also applies to witnesses. This could also mean he's not allowed to directly criticize his former Vice President Mike Pence for his involvement in the case. Chutkan did say and I'll quote here, "First Amendment protections yield to the administration of justice and to the protection of witnesses. His presidential candidacy (talking there about Trump) does not give him carte blanche to vilify public servants who are simply doing their job." She did say that there are sanctions that will be enforced if he breaks this gag order, but she did not clarify what they are or how she would enforce them. This does give Trump room to appeal, which he did submit on Tuesday afternoon. And his main argument is that his speech is being restricted. And it’s because he's a political candidate. Also in that hearing, Chutkan clarified that the trial date for this case, which is the one involving Trump's alleged involvement in riots at the Capitol on January 6, will move forward as planned in March and that she's not accepting any arguments to delay it until after the election.
REICHARD: Carolina Lumetta is a reporter for WORLD’s Washington Bureau. Carolina, thanks for your reporting.
LUMETTA: Anytime. Thanks for having me.
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