- The Washington Times
Thursday, July 26, 2018

Rep. Jim Jordan announced Thursday that he will try next year to become leader of the House Republican caucus, accelerating what’s likely to be a deeply divisive fight over the direction of the GOP.

The Ohio Republican is challenging Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the current majority leader and front-runner to succeed outgoing Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who is retiring at the end of this year.

Mr. Jordan said he will seek the post if Republicans manage to keep their majority in this year’s elections, vowing to be a firmer supporter of President Trump’s agenda.

“President Trump has taken bold action on behalf of the American people. Congress has not held up its end of the deal, but we can change that. It’s time to do what we said,” he wrote in a letter to colleagues.

Long a conservative lightning rod, Mr. Jordan quickly drew support from outside right-wing groups, while conservative lawmakers inside the Capitol were divided.

Some of his closest allies said they’ll back him, but other conservative lawmakers said they want to focus on making sure the GOP still has a majority — and thus the speakership — next year.

Mr. Jordan has built a reputation as a right-wing brawler, willing to battle Democrats and GOP leaders alike.

He helped orchestrate the 17-day government shutdown over Obamacare funding in 2013, though he later admitted that was perhaps too aggressive a stance. And he’s pushed for stiffer action on illegal immigration, deeper spending cuts and broader civil liberties protections from government snooping than party leaders have embraced.

He also attempted to impeach then-IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in 2016.

Mr. Jordan is a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee and founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, and has taken in recent months to chiding GOP leaders for failing to live up to the promises they and Mr. Trump made to voters.

Jim Jordan is a courageous conservative who has always kept his promises,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican. “I believe that Jim Jordan would return to regular order and lead the House to execute our conservative objectives.”

Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said he would “fully” support Mr. Jordan for speaker.

“I applaud all of those who are willing to put themselves out there. Certainly, Jim’s one of my better friends in Congress and I support his efforts and his leadership to do that,” Mr. Meadows said.

Mr. Meadows also waved aside talk that Mr. Jordan launched the long-shot bid to be a “spoiler” for another candidate or to build himself up as a GOP kingmaker.

“The fact is that he was a two-time national champion,” Mr. Meadows said of Mr. Jordan, a former college wrestler. “I never knew him to get on the mat and try to lose, and I don’t expect this to be any different. If he’s going to get in, he’s going to be in it to win.”

Groups from the free-market Club for Growth to the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund said they would rally to Mr. Jordan’s side as well.

FreedomWorks, another group, said it will spend at least $500,000 to assist Mr. Jordan’s speakership bid.

However, elections analysts are putting increasingly long odds on the GOP’s hopes of retaining the majority. Should Democrats win, they’ll pick the speaker and the GOP contest would be for minority leader.

Mr. Jordan’s letter to colleagues didn’t say what he would do in that case.

The outgoing speaker, Mr. Ryan, said he didn’t talk to Mr. Jordan before his announcement, but said he’s still backing Mr. McCarthy.

Asked Thursday about Mr. Jordan’s bid, Mr. McCarthy told NBC: “I’m spending the time keeping the majority.”

Rep. Mark Walker, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, said the GOP needs to keep the majority first if they have designs on choosing the next speaker.

“That’s yet to be determined,” he said. “First and foremost, we got to keep the majority.”

Mr. Jordan built a national profile using his seats on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees to fire tough questions first at Obama administration officials, and more recently at Trump Justice Department and FBI officials.

This week he joined with Mr. Meadows to introduce articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, arguing he’s the point man of a Justice Department effort to hide documents from Congress.

While he won cheers from conservatives from those efforts, some moderate GOP members have started to lose patience with the Freedom Caucus and say those sorts of tactics are counterproductive.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican who is backing Mr. McCarthy, said that “under no circumstances” will she support Mr. Jordan for speaker.

“I would urge him instead to support his colleagues this November instead of focusing on his own personal leadership aspirations,” Ms. Stefanik tweeted.

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