Politics & Policy

Conservatives Speak of a Speaker Jim Jordan

Ohio congressman Jim Jordan speaks at CPAC. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Giving the gavel to the Ohio congressman would energize Republicans both in the House and in the grassroots.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) has endorsed Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) as his successor. Conservatives are not amused.

The Right feels stung by last month’s deeply embarrassing, 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus fiasco. Conservatives also are sore over the congressional leadership’s failure to place many landmark bills on President Donald J. Trump’s desk. With the enormous exception of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Capitol Hill Republicans have handed Trump disturbingly little to sign. While Kentuckian Mitch McConnell’s listless Senate “leadership” is mainly culpable, a firmer hand in the House would stimulate the lower body and slap the Senate out of its endless slumber.

Conservatives increasingly are promoting Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) for speaker. House Republicans need this sharp, lively, and fearless four-time state wrestling champion (record: 150 wins, one loss), not the bland, cautious, and conventional McCarthy. At least ten conservative-activist organizations prescribe Jordan over McCarthy. These include Tea Party Patriots, the American Family Association, Gun Owners of America, and the legendary Richard Viguerie’s FedUp PAC.

“The level of grassroots energy surrounding a Jordan speakership campaign is something we haven’t seen in years,” FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon said April 19, as he unveiled its “Draft Jim Jordan” campaign. “It indicates to us that selecting a truly conservative speaker would change the entire momentum of the 2018 midterm election cycle.” Within 24 hours, FreedomWorks says, its members initiated 8,000 social-media actions to buoy Jordan.

“We surveyed our grassroots supporters last week, and 92 percent supported Jim Jordan, 4 percent were unsure, and 4 percent supported someone else,” according to the Senate Conservatives Fund (which also backs House candidates). “It’s clear that conservatives agree that Jim Jordan, a proven conservative, is the ideal leader to replace Paul Ryan.”

Jordan’s and McCarthy’s differences are substantive and stylistic.

On policy, major limited-government institutions give Jordan, 54, generally stellar ratings. The positions of McCarthy, 53, are ho-hum. Based on 2017’s key votes, here’s how several such outfits judged Jordan vs. McCarthy:

• American Conservative Union: 100 vs. 78

• National Taxpayers Union: 84 (B+) vs. 77 (B)

• Club for Growth: 98 vs. 64

• FreedomWorks: 97 vs. 66

• Heritage Action: 100 vs. 41

Notwithstanding McCarthy’s admirable efforts on tax cuts, his lukewarm record is even more disappointing since President Trump remains eager to sign whatever conservative legislation Congress bowls down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Stylistically, Jordan is both amiable and assertive on TV. The Freedom Caucus’s founding chairman is a tough interrogator in oversight hearings. He doggedly has pursued Obama’s White House, State, Justice, and the FBI through the Benghazi, Servergate, and Russiagate probes. Also, Jordan bravely battled the omnibus calamity.

‘Conservatives in the Senate will have a lot more leverage if Jim Jordan is speaker,’ says Senate Conservatives Fund president Ken Cuccinelli. 

McCarthy’s majority-leader duties have limited his committee-room exploits. He is pleasant enough on TV but lacks the competitive fire that conservatives crave — and detect in Jordan. Most ominously, though, McCarthy was a top omnibus author, both in the bill’s closed-door conception and its “Swallow it, now!” adoption.

“If you want Congress to remain paralyzed because of partisan politics, then McCarthy is your man for speaker,” Andrew Roth, the Club for Growth’s vice-president of government affairs, tells me. “He will continue to legislate, crisis-by-crisis, by crafting bills in secret, moments before they are voted on. If you want a ‘change agent’ who will fight for Trump’s agenda and hold members of Congress accountable to their campaign rhetoric, then Jordan is your guy.”

More conservative, energetic leadership in the House, and surely the Senate, could electrify the free-market agenda.

“Conservatives in the Senate will have a lot more leverage if Jim Jordan is speaker,” says Senate Conservatives Fund president Ken Cuccinelli. ”Imagine if you were Ted Cruz this year. Imagine if Jordan were speaker, rather than Ryan, and Jordan said, ‘We sent the Senate twelve appropriations bills, and we’re going home until you vote on them. There will be no omnibus.’ You would have another whole body, out of two bodies, that shares your view of how things should be done.”

Of course, this won’t matter, should Nancy Pelosi (D . Calif.) return as speaker, and Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) replace the bumbling McConnell. If Republican legislators want to avoid that nightmare and pursue the dream of a Jordan speakership, they had better legislate.

“One major accomplishment — while holding the majority of both houses and the White House — is not going to cut it,” Cuccinelli says, citing the Trump–GOP tax cut.  “They’re resting on their laurel,” he adds. “It isn’t plural.”

Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia, wants Republicans to keep their campaign promises, namely “immigration reform that builds the wall, and ends the visa lottery and chain migration. They also need to pass a dramatically smaller budget before this year’s election.”

Jordan, McCarthy, or otherwise, Washington Republicans should heed Ken Cuccinnelli’s warning: “Unless they get their act in gear, the GOP will not remain in the majority.”

Deroy Murdock, a movement conservative since 1979, has colluded with many of the aforementioned groups.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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