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 CollinsJan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure vote Lobbying world Sunday shows preview: Biden administration confronts inflation spike 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 TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension 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 LoefflerSenate GOP worries Trump could derail bid for majority Perdue mulling primary challenge against Kemp in Georgia: report McConnell backs Herschel Walker in Georgia Senate race MORE (R-Ga.) in a special election this November.

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Under one possible scenario, Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWith extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one Jim Jordan reveals he had COVID-19 this summer The Memo: Gosar censured, but toxic culture grows 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 MeadowsJan. 6 panel releases contempt report on Trump DOJ official ahead of censure vote Raffensperger talks with Jan. 6 committee about call with Trump: AJC The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden favors vaccines, masks over lockdowns as omicron nears 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.

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 McCarthyOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats McCarthy raised 0K after marathon speech Dem leader calls on GOP to 'cleanse' itself after Boebert comments 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 RatcliffeThis Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead DOJ charges two Iranians with interference in 2020 election In dramatic shift, national intelligence director does not rule out 'extraterrestrial' origins for UFOs MORE (R-Texas), a former federal prosecutor whom Trump had considered for attorney general; 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, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee who is a close ally of fellow Louisiana Republican, Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseThe Memo: Omicron poses huge threat to Biden presidency The GOP's post-1/6 playbook is clear — and it's dangerous House GOP seek to block Biden from reopening Palestinian mission in Jerusalem MORE; and retiring Rep. Martha RobyMartha Dubina RobyLobbying world House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit The year of the Republican woman MORE (R-Ala.).

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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 BoehnerFeehery: The next Republican wave is coming Rift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power 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.”