Collins Senate bid sets off game of musical chairs for GOP

Collins Senate bid sets off game of musical chairs for GOP
© Greg Nash

Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsTrump says he is considering four candidates for intelligence chief Doug Collins not interested in national intelligence role despite Trump interest The Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday MORE’s decision to run for the Senate in Georgia will set in motion a game of musical chairs that could put two of President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama New York man accused of making death threats against Schumer, Schiff MORE’s most loyal defenders in the top GOP slots of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees.

Collins has been serving as the top Republican on the powerful Judiciary Committee since January 2019, but House GOP conference rules require lawmakers to relinquish chairman or ranking member posts once they launch bids for higher office.

Collins formally announced Wednesday that he will challenge newly appointed Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerDoug Collins not interested in national intelligence role despite Trump interest The Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday Trump considering Doug Collins as nominee for director of national intelligence MORE (R-Ga.) in a special election this November.

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Under one possible scenario, Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium Ex-Ohio State wrestler claims Jim Jordan asked him to deny abuse allegations MORE (R-Ohio), a Trump ally who serves as the top Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee, could move over to take the top GOP spot on Judiciary, some GOP lawmakers told The Hill. 

That would open up the top GOP job on Oversight, which some lawmakers said could temporarily be filled by another Trump loyalist, retiring Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsLawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Conservative lawmakers warn Pelosi about 'rate-setting' surprise billing fix House GOP leader says reassignment of Vindman was appropriate MORE (R-N.C.). Jordan was the founding chairman of the Freedom Caucus, while Meadows succeeded him as the leader of that conservative group.

The Jordan-Meadows scenario is “being talked about” but “no decisions have been made,” according to one senior GOP aide familiar with the early talks. 

But a key GOP lawmaker said Jordan is in a strong position for the Judiciary job. “If Jordan wants it, he will get it,” said one member of the GOP Steering Committee, the leadership-aligned panel that votes on who gets ranking member and committee slots.

In a brief interview with The Hill, Meadows said he was focused on the impeachment trial and had no comment for this story.

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Jordan, who initially sought to become Judiciary’s ranking member before the start of the 116th Congress, was ultimately picked as the ranking member on Oversight after an 11th-hour deal was struck for Meadows to drop out of the race and allow Jordan to run uncontested. 

When the House Intelligence Committee launched its impeachment inquiry last fall, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyBarr to attend Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday California delivers swift suit after Trump orders water diversion Twitter experimenting with new tool to label lies and misinformation MORE (R-Calif.) needed an attack dog who was good on TV and could aggressively defend Trump. He temporarily shifted Jordan to the Intelligence panel.  

And this month, Trump named both Jordan and Meadows to his House impeachment team, which has been strategizing with the president’s legal team and defending Trump in the media each day of the Senate trial.

“Jordan has done a good job. I think he’s earned it, but let’s see who else is interested,” said a second member of the Steering Committee.

Others who have been floated for the top Judiciary post include Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump says he is considering four candidates for intelligence chief Trump expected to tap Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as acting intel chief Trump considering Utah GOP lawmaker for top intelligence post: report  MORE (R-Texas), a former federal prosecutor whom Trump had considered for attorney general; Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonWhite House, Republicans blast Pelosi for ripping up copy of Trump speech Jordan says he will support McCarthy for Speaker if majority flips next year Collins Senate bid sets off game of musical chairs for GOP MORE, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee who is a close ally of fellow Louisiana Republican, Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseScalise after Democrat asks for examples of Sanders supporters 'being bad': 'I can think of an example' Bottom line Pelosi's staff huddles with aides in both parties on 'surprise' medical billing MORE; and retiring Rep. Martha RobyMartha Dubina RobyCollins Senate bid sets off game of musical chairs for GOP Global health is the last bastion of bipartisan foreign policy Stefanik defends Roby 'for bringing her son to work' after Post op-ed MORE (R-Ala.).

But Roby told The Hill on Wednesday night she’s focused on her appropriations work in her final year of Congress and is not interested in the top Judiciary job. 

“A transition will happen in the near term,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill. “Ratcliffe and Jordan appear to be the two horses in the race.”

The Steering Committee, which is composed of top GOP leaders and regional representatives, is expected to interview candidates and vote to recommend a replacement for Collins in the coming weeks.

By backing Jordan for the Judiciary role, several GOP sources said, McCarthy would be aligning himself with a one-time political rival and a key conservative voting bloc that he’ll need to secure the Speaker’s gavel in the event Republicans take back the majority.

After the 2018 midterms, Jordan unsuccessfully challenged McCarthy for minority leader. And Jordan’s Freedom Caucus has traditionally been a frequent thorn in leadership’s side, forcing the resignation of then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Lobbying world Pelosi-Trump relationship takes turn for the terrible MORE (R-Ohio) in 2015 and blocking McCarthy from succeeding him.

One possible curveball: Collins could try to seek a waiver to remain in his Judiciary post, though he hasn’t decided to do so. The waiver would have to be approved by the Steering Committee.

“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.”