Ending months of speculation, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, announced Thursday he will run for speaker of the House of Representatives, seeking to replace the retiring Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., as leader of the Republican conference in the House of Representatives.
Jordan will make the announcement official a letter sent to his colleagues. He confirmed to the press reports that he is running.
Jordan, a leading member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has been privately courting fellow Republican lawmakers and conservative grassroots organizations for months to gain support for his bid. He is will challenge House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is the front-runner to be the next speaker and has Ryan's endorsement for the job. On Wednesday, McCarthy made clear his intention to run for speaker at a Turning Point USA event.
"I want the next Speaker to come from California, I just don't want it to be Nancy [Pelosi]," McCarthy said. "I want it to be me."
For a time, many thought that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., might launch a bid for speaker against McCarthy, but in June, Scalise said he would not run, presumably solidifying the leadership establishment vote behind McCarthy. After Speaker John Boehner retired in 2015, McCarthy unsuccessfully tried to run for speaker, opposed by House conservatives because of his liberal voting record and ties to the establishment.
This is where Jordan’s strength lies.
First elected to Congress in 2007, Jordan is a proven conservative with one of the best voting records in Congress on issues that matter to constitutional conservatives. He’s the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee and a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus. For years he’s fought for a conservative agenda, demanding an end to excessive government spending, opposing omnibus bills, and urging congressional Republicans to keep their promises on spending, on Obamacare, on border security, on defunding Planned Parenthood, and on a host of other issues.
He’s a full-spectrum conservative. Where moderate Republicans now support carbon taxes, Jordan was the first congressional Republican to sign Americans for Prosperity’s “No Climate Tax” pledge. When Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards testified before Congress, Jordan asked the toughest questions, demanding that Richards explain on the record why she felt the need to apologize for comments made by a Planned Parenthood executive in Center for Medical Progress videos she claimed were doctored. When House Republicans broke their promise to fully repeal Obamacare and offered a half-measure bill, Jordan and his conservative colleagues demanded that the GOP keep its word and pass a clean repeal of Obamacare. On spending, Jordan has consistently offered balanced budget plans that are better than the GOP leadership alternatives, and in 2011 his insistence on fiscal responsibility was instrumental to passing the Budget Control Act, which created the only real spending cut achieved during Barack Obama's presidency.
Fighting hard for conservatism has often squared Jordan off against GOP leadership. He has been called an “a**hole” and “legislative terrorist” by former Speaker Boehner. He’s opposed Speaker Ryan for Ryan’s failures to keep a commitment to fiscal responsibility, drawing the ire of the Washington establishment.
Political pundits will dismiss Jordan’s candidacy as a long shot or underdog bid, in part because of the Freedom Caucus’ unpopularity with most of the Republican caucus and in part because of McCarthy’s close relationship with President Donald Trump. The fact is, it is always an uphill battle for any conservative to challenge the status quo in Washington D.C. But Jordan’s unpopularity with the D.C. establishment makes him an attractive candidate to the conservative grassroots.
This is an advantage McCarthy lacks. Jordan’s consistent record has lined up movement conservative groups behind his candidacy for speaker. In May, a who’s who of Tea Party organizations sent a letter to Jordan urging him to throw his hat into the speaker race.
“You must take the lead. You have demonstrated over your years on Capitol Hill an unwavering commitment to our constitutional liberties and conservative principles of free market economics, budgetary discipline, traditional values and a strong national defense,” the letter said to Jordan. “You have worked to drain the Swamp, not fill it further. And we all know what the current House Republican leadership really thinks of you and those who share your beliefs. You have established a record of responsible leadership of the kind our times demand.”
Jordan’s critics and opponents will doubtlessly make an issue of the allegations that he ignored or neglected to act on reports of sexual abuse at Ohio State University when he worked as an assistant wrestling coach there decades ago. But no evidence has been brought forward to prove the allegations, including those made by a discredited accuser and promoted by media enablers.
Even if he should be ultimately unsuccessful, it is good for Jordan to run. Leadership elections won’t be held until after the midterms, and his candidacy will motivate the conservative grassroots to go and vote to keep Republicans in control of Congress in the hopes that Jordan can become speaker. Besides passing tax cuts, Republicans have failed to advance major pieces of conservative legislation toward President Trump’s desk. Conservatives need a reason to care about the midterm elections, and scaring voters with doomsday predictions about what the Democrats might do if Nancy Pelosi returns to power will not be enough to motivate voters who know Republicans squander their time in charge.
Jordan’s run for speaker has the potential to change all that. Conservatives finally have something to cheer for.