Jim Jordan Is Making a Bid to Succeed Paul Ryan as House Speaker

(Bloomberg) -- Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Thursday he’s making a bid to succeed Paul Ryan as the chamber’s GOP leader, potentially exposing divisions within the party amid the midterm election campaign.

Jordan, 54, will challenge House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California for the post. Ryan, the current House speaker, is retiring when his term ends in January and has backed McCarthy.

“Should the American people entrust us with the majority again in the 116th Congress, I plan to run for Speaker of the House to bring real change to the House of Representatives,” Jordan said in a statement. “President Trump has taken bold action on behalf of the American people. Congress has not held up its end of the deal, but we can change that. It’s time to do what we said.”

Whether Ryan’s successor becomes the next House speaker depends on Republicans staving off Democrats, who are riding historical trends and a surge of support in a battle for House control after the Nov. 6 election.

Jordan launched his bid amid accusations that while he was assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University three decades ago he knew a team doctor engaged in sexual misconduct and improprieties with student athletes but did nothing about it. He’s denied that any such misconduct was reported to him.

Rejecting Allegations

Jordan told reporters that the Ohio State allegations, which he views as a smear campaign, will not affect his bid.

“My colleagues can see right through that story," he said.

In a letter to his House colleagues, Jordan outlined the changes he wants. He called for votes on repealing Obamacare, overhauling welfare, ending funding for Planned Parenthood and cutting spending. He also called for opening up plum committee assignments and chairmanships to a wider group of members.

His candidacy is seen as creating leverage for the House Freedom Caucus on policy matters such as the budget and attempts to limit the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia during the 2016 election.

The three-dozen-member Freedom Caucus has been pressing to have one of its members elected to another House leadership post such as GOP Conference chairman. Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the current chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said he will support Jordan in the race for Republican leader. Together, they could control nearly 40 votes in the leadership races for the next session.

Conservative Alternative

Conservative activists at Club for Growth and FreedomWorks endorsed Jordan’s candidacy Thursday.

The Jordan move could affect House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who while supporting McCarthy’s quest to the top post, has been positioning himself as the conservative alternative if McCarthy is unable to muster the 218 floor votes needed to become the speaker.

Scalise’s standing as the conservative choice could be undermined by Jordan’s outsider campaign. But Jordan also could block McCarthy from becoming speaker while also failing to get enough votes himself to gain the gavel. In such a deadlock, Scalise could emerge as the consensus candidate.

Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry of Pennsylvania said he is supporting Jordan because he wants to see changes to Republican policies and the legislative process.

“I’ve known Kevin for a long time and I like Kevin, but it’s about doing things differently around here,” Perry said. “There are a lot of things that need to change here dramatically.”

Ryan said he’s continuing to back McCarthy. “I’m going to support Kevin McCarthy for speaker -- everyone knows that,” he told reporters.

The House Republican conference will meet after the election to choose its candidate for speaker. While the candidate only needs to get a simple majority vote of party members at that time, the speaker is formally elected by the whole House in early January. The Republican candidate would need a majority of 218 votes to succeed.

A showing during that initial internal conference voting that a candidate can’t get 218 votes could lead to pressure to step aside for someone else. It’s during that vote that the House Freedom Caucus has the ability to make or break a speaker candidacy.

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