Jim Jor­dan is ex­plor­ing run for House speaker

Austin American-Statesman - - NATION & WORLD - By Mike DeBo­nis Wash­ing­ton Post

Rep. Jim Jor­dan, WASH­ING­TON — a prom­i­nent and po­lar­iz­ing con­ser­va­tive leader, said Fri­day he is strongly con­sid­er­ing a run for House speaker in a bid that could up­end the race to suc­ceed Paul Ryan.

“There is no speaker’s race right now. Paul Ryan is the speaker,” said Jor­dan, R-Ohio. “If and when there is, I’ve been urged by col­leagues to con­sider that and I am def­i­nitely open to that. Right now though the fo­cus has got to be on the next six months, us keep­ing the ma­jor­ity.”

Jor­dan, 54, is a for­mer cham­pion col­lege wrestler who co-founded the House Free­dom Cau­cus, a hard­line fac­tion of about three dozen con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers that could play a king­maker role in any lead­er­ship race to come. Its mem­bers have been highly crit­i­cal of the GOP lead­er­ship, es­pe­cially af­ter last month’s vote to pass a $1.3 tril­lion om­nibus spend­ing bill.

Should Jor­dan en­ter the lead­er­ship derby, it would im­me­di­ately scram­ble a race that till now was shap­ing up to be a duel between House Ma­jor­ity Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.

Jor­dan is an im­mensely pop­u­lar fig­ure in con­ser­va­tive grass-roots cir­cles but a divi­sive fig­ure out­side of them, mak­ing his as­cen­sion to the speak­er­ship a long shot. Many more mod­er­ate rank-and-file Repub­li­cans re­sent the role he has played in op­pos­ing lead­er­ship pri­or­i­ties, but he has been an un­apolo­getic ad­vo­cate for pur­su­ing a more con­ser­va­tive agenda on Capi­tol Hill and a fre­quent pres­ence on Fox News and other con­ser­va­tive me­dia out­lets.

Speak­ing Thurs­day night in a Fox Busi­ness Net­work interview, Jor­dan did not ad­dress whether he would be seek­ing a lead­er­ship post but crit­i­cized House Repub­li­can pri­or­i­ties.

“What we need to do is get re­fo­cused on what the Amer­i­can peo­ple sent us here to do, not do what we did three weeks ago and pass this om­nibus spend­ing bill,” he said. “To me it’s more im­por­tant about what we do rather than who is speaker of the House.”

Ac­cord­ing to law­mak­ers who spoke to Jor­dan about his plans, he has met with con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists seek­ing to draft him into the race. A num­ber of prom­i­nent con­ser­va­tives have also pro­moted Jor­dan on so­cial me­dia. Frank Gaffney, a con­ser­va­tive na­tional se­cu­rity fig­ure who has ad­vised Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, is­sued a state­ment Thurs­day en­dors­ing Jor­dan - call­ing on the GOP to choose “an au­then­tic con­ser­va­tive with pas­sion, en­ergy and most im­por­tantly, Make Amer­i­can Great Again prin­ci­ples.”

Jor­dan has been a lead­ing critic of the FBI and Jus­tice De­part­ment’s han­dling of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s email prac­tices as sec­re­tary of state and of the cir­cum­stances that led to the fed­eral probe of the Trump cam­paign’s pos­si­ble ties to Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion. Jor­dan, who holds seats on the House Over­sight and Ju­di­ciary com­mit­tees, has called for a spe­cial coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate both probes - a po­si­tion that has been wildly pop­u­lar with the Repub­li­can base but re­jected by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions and top GOP con­gres­sional lead­ers.

Even if Jor­dan is un­able to cor­ral enough votes to be­come speaker - or mi­nor­ity leader if the GOP loses its House ma­jor­ity in the Novem­ber midterms - he stands to siphon con­ser­va­tive sup­port from McCarthy or other po­ten­tial con­tenders, which would make a much more un­pre­dictable con­test.

McCarthy has beaten back con­ser­va­tive op­po­si­tion be­fore. In 2014 he won the ma­jor­ity leader po­si­tion over Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, who would go on to co-found the Free­dom Cau­cus. But that con­test re­quired McCarthy to win only a ma­jor­ity of House Repub­li­cans.

MANUEL BALCE CENETA / AP

Rep. Jim Jor­dan, R-Ohio, co-founded the House Free­dom Cau­cus, a hard-line fac­tion of about three dozen con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers that could play a king­maker role in any lead­er­ship race to come.

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