Next six months make or break for GOP, says key conservative

The next six months are make or break for the new House Republican majority, according to a prominent conservative lawmaker.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), says Republicans have to seize their opportunity to pass legislation that would significantly lower the nation’s record deficit.

ADVERTISEMENT
“I think the next six months, between now and the end of July as we go into the August recess, as we go through [debates on] the continuing resolution, the budget, debt ceiling, appropriations … will largely define the whole political landscape as we move into 2012,” Jordan said in a sit-down interview with The Hill.

The three-term Ohio Republican lawmaker is poised to press his leadership to honor its pledge for fiscal discipline, spending cuts and reforms on behalf of the 175-member conservative caucus.

As the chairman of a group that prides itself as “the conservative conscience on Capitol Hill,” Jordan appreciates the importance.

The RSC, he said, “helps Republicans remember we’re Republicans.”

Under Jordan’s leadership, the RSC made its first major announcement of the year last week when it unveiled a proposal that would trim federal spending by $2.5 trillion over 10 years.

That proposal, Jordan said, will be used as a “marker” in the spending battles that will occur over the next couple of months.

Jordan hails from the same state as Speaker John Boehner (R), but the former college wrestling standout has already shown a willingness to take on leadership.

He said the RSC plans to seek a House floor vote on its own budget blueprint this year, which will be separate from leadership’s package.

In recent years, the RSC has battled with House Republican leaders on budget matters. At times, RSC members have banded together and threatened to reject the leadership’s spending blueprint unless more cuts were embraced.

Before the 112th Congress began, Jordan went to the mat with House GOP leaders over an amendment that the RSC wanted to include in House rules. He blasted the rules package in a press release, saying it contained “a major loophole” giving appropriators the power to increase government spending.

Jordan did give Boehner a heads-up on the measure, which was subsequently rejected by the House GOP conference.

“I always think that’s better. Now, would he prefer we didn’t offer it? Well, of course,” Jordan said.

Jordan and Boehner have a “great relationship,” according to the junior member of the delegation.

The Jordan-Boehner relationship will be tested this Congress.

“We all have jobs to do,” Jordan said.

“I was kidding [Boehner] about how he won [the amendment vote]. It was fun. That’s the way I want to keep it, because it helps everybody; it helps the country. But like I say, a good, vigorous debate, like a good, vigorous primary, is healthy. It makes everybody stronger in the end,” Jordan said.

Jordan hates to lose. In high school, his record in wrestling was 150-1. “Winning beats losing every time,” Jordan said.

He said he remembers the one loss vividly, though he added that it helped him get better. He later won two wrestling championships at the University of Wisconsin.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Jordan had a major hand in the House GOP’s victory in November, pointing out that the Ohio legislator made many calls to potential candidates and campaigned in various districts.

McCarthy, who took his seat, along with Jordan, in a class of only 13 GOP freshmen in 2007, said Jordan was a regular at weekly strategy meetings of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The 6-foot, 3-inch silver-haired Californian boasts that he dons a T-shirt emblazoned with “Jordan Trained” to the House member gym — an honor that is only afforded to those who can “pin” Jordan.

A smiling McCarthy says it was very hard to pin the 134-pound wrestling champion — “you have to catch him off guard.”

Jordan never intended to get into politics. He spent nearly 20 years as a wrestling coach with little consideration of running for office.

“At least for me, you get married, you have kids, you look at the world different. You get tired of the government telling you what to do, taking all your money and insulting your values in the process. So I decided to run,” the husband and father of four said.

Throughout the hourlong interview, Jordan talked about his children, noting that he has served as a golf caddy for one of his daughters in tournament play. His House website is one of the few that has a section for children.

After winning long-shot bids to the state House in 1994 and state Senate in 2000, Jordan survived a six-way GOP primary to replace retiring Rep. Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) and easily won the general election in his Republican-leaning central Ohio district.

Throughout his 16 years in politics, the 46-year-old says, the protection of the family institution continues to be his main focus.

Asked if the RSC would take up social issues related to the family, Jordan noted that Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), a former RSC chairman, has introduced a bill that would deny federal funds to abortion-rights group Planned Parenthood. He also said RSC members will reintroduce a measure that would ban same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C.

Jordan and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) are boycotting this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference because it includes GOProud, a gay-Republican group.

The jovial lawmaker considers financial and economic issues “moral” issues as well.

“It’s immoral not to let moms and dads have their money to spend on their kids, their grandkids, their goals, their dreams. It’s just wrong to do that,” Jordan said.

That passion translated into a key role during the 111th Congress as the RSC’s point man on the budget.

GOP Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas), who led the RSC in 2009 and 2010, told The Hill that Jordan is “a guy who comes from the heartland of America. He’s the picture of integrity. He’s highly, highly respected in our conference.”

Jordan won’t rule out a Senate bid in 2012 against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), but said he is leaning against it.