by Robert Donachie
A coalition of more than 100 conservatives sent a letter to House Freedom Caucus (HFC) co-founder Jim Jordan Monday urging him to throw his name in to replace outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
“There must be a real race for Speaker of the House. Now. No backroom deals. A real race, starting this spring, to make every incumbent and candidate commit on the record, as a campaign issue, whether they’ll vote to save the Swamp or drain it,” the letter reads. “America needs you to declare yourself as a candidate for Speaker at once. We write to you on behalf of millions of Americans who want Congress to Drain the Swamp.”
Ryan rattled Capitol Hill in April when he announced he will retire from the House after nearly 20 years in Congress, telling reporters he wanted to spend more time with his family and pursue other opportunities.
Two of the top House Republicans — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana — are angling for the position, but neither thought to have a guaranteed lock on the speakership.
McCarthy failed to garner the 218 required votes to become speaker in 2015, but his particularly close relationship with the president has some expecting that, along with Ryan’s full fledged endorsement, it will give him an upper hand over Scalise in the coming months.
Scalise wouldn’t rule out a potential bid for Ryan’s job but is also adamant he would not run against McCarthy, who he considers a “good friend,” he said in March.
Yet, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who is best friends with Jordan, might have the closest relationship with the president over any other member of Congress. During a speech Thursday in which Jordan appeared to preview a bid for the speakership, Jordan joked that Meadows was in the back, taking a phone call from the president, which Meadows is known to do on a regular basis.
The letter Jordan received Monday from conservatives echoes a great deal of what the congressman has said himself since Ryan announced his retirement. Namely, Jordan is adamant that Republicans need to get back to accomplishing what they promised voters during the 2016 election cycle, like dealing with immigration, border security, repealing and replacing Obamacare and stopping out-of-control spending.
Jordan’s response to questions about the speaker’s race have been the same since the day TheDCNF first reported the growing wave of support for his candidacy: there is no speaker’s race, and we need to focus on the issues.
Conservatives are pushing back against Jordan’s assertion that there isn’t an ongoing race to replace Ryan.
“To those who say there is no Speaker’s race at the moment, we say that it’s already underway – in back rooms, behind closed doors, and aimed at preserving the Swamp and making it bigger. The Speaker’s race must be public. There will be no Republican Speaker in 2019 unless the GOP can appeal to those Americans in its own ranks, among independents and even many Democrats who voted for Donald Trump to drain the Swamp and for the current Republican-led House to help him do that,” the letter reads.
“The present House Republican leadership has failed. It is part of the problem. You are the solution. This is your moment. We pray you will seize it, knowing that if you do, we will do everything we can to help you succeed.”
The HFC is no stranger to putting leadership on notice.
Jordan, Meadows and HFC members shot down a farm bill in order to secure a vote on an immigration proposal they were promised months ago.
Ryan and McCarthy huddled with Meadows and Jordan in the back of the House chamber before the final gavel Friday, but their 11th-hour attempts were unable to sway the conservative members.
The bill failed with members voting 198-213, dealing a decisive blow to leadership.
Friday’s vote is evidence the HFC has the leverage to sway major policy issues, given the power of the caucus’ 36 members’ votes. If the caucus votes as a coalition, they can kill a bill or get concessions from leadership.
Many believe Jordan’s bid would be to get concessions from either McCarthy or Scalise, but Ryan still has the rest of the year as speaker. That is, if he isn’t pressured to step down earlier.
McCarthy’s folks are reportedly nervous about the potential heat he will take in a drawn out speaker’s race if Ryan decides to stay through the November midterm elections, which he has promised he intends to do.
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