Jim Jordan is exploring run for House speaker
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.
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.