Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanAnti-Trump Republicans target McCarthy, Scalise, other high-profile conservatives Congress may be right to cite Bannon for contempt — but Justice would be wrong to prosecute Cheney reveals GOP's Banks claimed he was Jan. 6 panel's ranking member MORE (R-Ohio), a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, pledged Thursday to throw his support behind House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyAnti-Trump Republicans target McCarthy, Scalise, other high-profile conservatives Congress may be right to cite Bannon for contempt — but Justice would be wrong to prosecute Juan Williams: Trump is killing American democracy MORE (R-Calif.) for Speaker if the House majority flips next year.
“I think everyone understands that if we take [the House] back, Kevin is going to be the Speaker. The president’s been clear about that,” Jordan told The Hill Thursday.
When asked specifically if he planned to support McCarthy, a one-time political rival, Jordan replied: “Yeah, when you lead the team back, I think you deserve — you earned it so that’s understood by just about everyone.”
The early and ringing endorsement comes as Jordan, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is looking to jump leadership roles to the top GOP spot on the House Judiciary Committee.
Jordan is not hiding his interest in the post.
“I would love that opportunity, but that’s up to the leader and the steering committee,” Jordan said.
Still, Jordan’s support marks how far McCarthy has come in converting a once vocal critic into a loyal supporter.
Jordan, who maintains strong influence in the conservative Republican group, previously ran against McCarthy for the role of minority leader after the 2018 midterms, losing the race with a 159-43 vote.
The conservative caucus, which has been a thorn in the side of GOP leader in the past, really showed its might in 2015 after the group forced then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE (R-Ohio) to resign and blocked McCarthy from taking over his role.
But now, Jordan is indicating that the Freedom Caucus will support McCarthy.
“When you take back the majority, the person who's in charge of the team taking it back, I think that the team comes together,” Jordan said Thursday, asked if the Freedom Caucus would also support McCarthy.
“Kevin's done a good job of keeping the team together and this entire impeachment process so I think everyone appreciates him,” he added.
Republicans aren’t expected to win back the House this fall.
The GOP lost 40 seats in the 2018 midterms and would need to gain roughly 20 seats to take back the majority.
If they do, it would be a huge political victory for McCarthy that would make him a difficult candidate to defeat in a leadership election.
Still, Jordan’s remark highlights how far the relationship between McCarthy and Jordan has blossomed since Jordan became the top Republican on Oversight at the start of the 116th Congress.
Jordan had initially sought to become the ranking member of the Judiciary panel at the start of this Congress, but he ended up getting the role on Oversight after Rep. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsAt least five Trump administration staffers have spoken with Jan 6 committee: CNN Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled Report: Rally organizers say GOP lawmakers worked on Jan. 6 protests MORE (R-N.C.) suddenly dropped out of the race.
The Oversight role gave Jordan, a fierce defender of President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly MORE, the platform to combat Democrats’ investigation efforts into the White House.
Since then, McCarthy also has given Jordan other opportunities to elevate his profile during the Democrat-led House impeachment inquiry.
McCarthy even had Jordan temporarily join the House Intelligence Committee as the panel conducted the fact-finding phase of their probe into Trump’s contacts with Ukraine.
Jordan’s endorsement comes at a time when he appears to be a serious contender for the ranking member role on the Judiciary role that will be vacated since Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor MORE (R-Ga.), who currently holds the role, has announced he is running for a Georgia Senate seat in 2020.
It is not yet clear if McCarthy is supporting Jordan moving over to Judiciary, but his opinion on it will matter.
McCarthy controls four votes on the Republican Steering Committee. And while top Republican leaders and regional representatives make up the panel, it is also filled with allies of the California Republican.
Whoever McCarthy throws his support behind has a strong chance of gaining a particular committee seat or committee leadership role. In the coming weeks, the panel is expected to interview potential candidates and vote on who will replace Collins.
And the way forward for Jordan appeared even more clear Thursday.
One GOP lawmaker told The Hill earlier this week that Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeSunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony Biden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Sunday shows preview: US grapples with rising COVID-19 cases MORE (R-Texas) and Jordan “appear to be the two horses in the race.”
But when asked Thursday about whether he was eyeing the ranking member role, Ratcliffe replied: “I’m not interested.”
“I’ve already told Jim that I hope he will consider pursuing it,” the Texas Republican told The Hill as he was walking into the Senate impeachment trial.
Another potential contender, Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonOvernight Defense & National Security — Pentagon officials get grilling from House House lawmakers press Pentagon over Afghanistan withdrawal House passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit MORE (R-La.), also threw his support behind Jordan.
“Jim is a trusted friend of mine and one of the MVPs of our party. He has earned the position of ranking member, and I fully support him for the position,” Johnson told The Hill.
If Jordan did ultimately jump to the Judiciary role, it could pave the way for Meadows to move to the top GOP role on Oversight.
Still, it remains unclear whether Collins will give up his role without a fight.
Collins, who formally announced his bid Wednesday, would have to relinquish his role under House GOP conference rules, which prevent chairs or ranking members from keeping their posts if they are running for higher office.
But there is a chance Collins could appeal to McCarthy for a waiver as he seeks to challenge Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), newly appointed to the seat, in a special election this November.
“I have not filed for one — I didn’t know you had to file,” Collins told reporters on Wednesday. “Those are questions that we've been talking about before, and, you know — look those will be handled very soon.”
Scott Wong and Juliegrace Brufke contributed.