EXCLUSIVE: Jim Jordan Explains His Bid For Speaker

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
  • Republican Congressman Jim Jordan is running for House speaker and he believes he can win.
  • His main goals are to shake up how Congress operates, giving members more say in policy and more control over how the House operates.
  • He wants to deliver on the promises Republicans made to voters in 2016 and thinks he is the perfect guy to make sure that happens.

House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan says he is running for speaker of the House to fix mismanagement and dysfunction in Congress and deliver on the promises Republicans made to voters in the 2016 election cycle, the congressman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. He also thinks he can win.

Jordan, an Ohio Republican, formally announced his campaign for speaker of the House July 26 after months of speculation that the conservative stalwart would throw his name in the hat to replace outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The consensus in Washington and on Capitol Hill leading up to Jordan’s announcement this week was that Jordan, in league with his conservative HFC colleagues, was going on a shadow bid for the speakership to extract concessions from the two men in Republican leadership that Washingtonians have pegged as the top contenders to replace Ryan –House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Whip Steve Scalise. The theory was that Jordan is either trying to get a top committee chairmanship or was trying to set up his caucus to have more of a say in policy making following the November midterm elections.

Jordan has heard the conventional wisdom, but he doesn’t take much stock in it, selling himself as the agent of change in a Congress that is far too often run from the top at the expense of members and the American people.

“We’re trying to win. That is the goal — plain and simple. I think we can,” Jordan told TheDCNF.

He said it is important to remind voters of the accomplishments of House since the 2016 election, like repealing Obamacare, passing tax reform and instituting work requirements for welfare recipients in the farm bill. The congressman stops short of praising the progress of the lower chamber though and pointed to a number of policies the chamber balked on or completely failed to address altogether.

“The focus is the House has to do a better job of what we told the American people we would do and accomplish those policies … That we build the border security wall and reform our immigration policies in the right way consistent with the 2016 election. That we control spending. That we defunded Planned Parenthood. There are so many things that we told the American people we would do that we haven’t done,” Jordan told TheDCNF.

Jordan points to the progress President Donald Trump has made in his first year-and-a-half in office as something Congress should be striving for and not working against.

“In a year and a half, the president has reduced regulations, lowered taxes, the economy is growing at an unbelievable rate, unemployment is at its lowest in 20 years, Gorsuch is on the court, Kavanaugh is on deck, we are not in the crazy Iran deal, the embassy is in Jerusalem and the hostages have come home from North Korea,” Jordan told TheDCNF, adding that the only thing Congress helped out with were the 2017 tax cuts. “Those are good, but there are so many other things that we told the American people we would do and we haven’t done. That is what I am focused on doing if I get the chance to be the next speaker.”

How Exactly Would He Change The House If He Were Speaker? 

Jordan told TheDCNF there are two things that he wants to change in Congress above all else. The first is that he would like to see the party stand strong in policy debates and not give ground when they have the upper hand.

“I think there are a couple of things we have to do. One, is we have to be willing to have to actually have the debate and break the pattern that has now emerged in Congress where in order to do what needs to be done for national defense, the Democrats just demand that you increase spending for the rest of government as well,” Jordan told TheDCNF. “And we were so poised to break that pattern and win the debate this spring, particularly on the omnibus spending bill.”

The congressman is referencing the January 2018 government shut down, when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shut down the government for a weekend. Democrats effectively held national security hostage, potentially costing the economy billions and forcing hundreds of thousands of federal government employees to go without pay in exchange for securing legal protections for 800,000 illegal immigrants, also known as “Dreamers.” (RELATED: Dems Think 800,000 Illegal Immigrants Are Worth Forcing Active Military Personnel To Go Without Pay)

The shut down lasted for roughly three days, with the federal government opening up the following Monday after voters came out against the Democrats’ move. Jordan said that was the time to strike, but Republicans conceded too quickly.

“We move into the debate on the big omnibus and instead of saying, ‘we are going to fund our troops, and we aren’t going to increase the rest of the government,’ we didn’t even have debate. We just forfeited before the referee even started the game. That is the kind of thing we will have to change, and I’m committed to changing,” Jordan told TheDCNF.

The second aspect of Congress Jordan wants to shake up is how the hierarchical structure operates. He noted the process of picking committee chairmanships as an example of what he sees as mismanagement and dysfunction.

“Right now, there are a couple people at the top make all the decisions. Now, think about next year, for example. We have eight committee chairmanships opening up. Right now, there are a couple people at the top who control the steering committee and say, ‘you get to be chairman, and you get to be chairman,'” Jordan told TheDCNF. “I think we would be much better off if you let the decision be made on talent, on merit, on experience, on skill. The people best suited to make that decision are those on the committee. They are the experts in that area, and they know who would be best to lead their committee. They should be selecting the chairman, not a few people on leadership who make all the decisions.”

If Republicans could stand strong during policy debates and if members had more of a say in how Congress operates (from agenda setting to major policy decisions), Jordan believes “those are the kind of things that would empower members and help us get the kind of policy that is consistent with what we promised the American people.”

Can He Get The Votes? 

Jordan is facing off against two of the top fundraising members of the Republican party. Both also have a lot of name recognition and sway within the larger Republican conference.

McCarthy failed to garner the 218 required votes to become speaker in 2015, but his particularly close relationship with President Donald Trump is expected to give him a potential upper hand over Scalise in the coming months. Scalise wouldn’t rule out a potential bid for Ryan’s job but is also adamant he would not run against McCarthy, who he considers a “good friend,” he said in March.

Both representatives are raising millions for the party and for midterm candidates, which give them solid footing as Republicans look to choose their next leader. Jordan does not have the fundraising numbers, although he has received a great deal of support in the days following his announcement, a Jordan aide told TheDCNF.

McCarthy also said Wednesday — two days before Jordan’s announcement — that he wants to be the next speaker, urging conservatives to back him. That was the first public acknowledgment on the part of McCarthy, who is widely considered the front runner.

Jordan isn’t daunted and says his colleagues are incredibly supportive. He also says offering members a different approach to Congress could help him win the spot.

“I think there are lots of members outside the Freedom Caucus that understand the place doesn’t work like it is supposed to. They may not be in the Freedom Caucus, but they represent three-quarters of a million people in their district,” Jordan told TheDCNF. “When they are told by leadership, ‘do what you are told,’ and they don’t get any real say in big policy decisions, that is what frustrates them and that is what needs to change. If you want the same old same old, don’t vote for me. But if you want the place to change, you should vote for me and gives us a chance to change the place.”

One factor many people point to as something that could derail his bid for speaker is an ongoing sexual harassment investigation in which Jordan finds himself entwined.

Jordan, a former Division-1 wrestler, was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994. During and before his time at the university, a team doctor, Richard Strauss, allegedly had questionable interactions with teammates and students. Seven former Ohio State University wrestlers have come out against Jordan in recent weeks for reportedly failing to intervene with Strauss, who they claim was molesting them and students. (RELATED: Speaker Backs Jim Jordan During Scandal)

Jordan says he has spoken with many of his colleagues, and none of them believe the story.

“I’ve talked with so many of my colleagues, and they can all see right through that story. They just know it is not true,” Jordan told TheDCNF.

If Not Speaker, What About Keeping The Majority In 2018? 

While Jordan is serious about the speakership, he is more serious about ensuring that Republicans maintain control of the lower chamber in November.

“That is the most important thing. The most important thing over the next several months is that we go out and campaign,” Jordan told TheDCNF.

He has a few ideas about how Republicans can go about campaigning in the final months leading up to November and how they can do it successfully.

“I think it is time we nationalize these elections. I think we need to talk about the same things we talked about in 2016. I think when we come back in September we need to do some of those things,” Jordan said. “We need to reform welfare. We need to look at how we can control spending going forward. We are going to hit a trillion dollar deficit. I think those are going to be the focus when we come back. We need to run on the things President Donald Trump has campaigned on and that will give us the best shot at keeping the House.”

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