McCarthy embraces ex-rival Jordan as the top partisan fighter

“Donald Trump had a no more ferocious partisan defender than Jim Jordan throughout the impeachment proceedings in the House,” said Raskin, who also tangled publicly with Jordan recently over the issue of whether members should wear face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. “He’s a man of real talent but where does the Constitution fit in, where does the public interest fit in? It’s not clear to me.”

“You shouldn’t make a career out of defending people who abuse their power,” Raskin added.

But for many Republicans, Jordan is a battle-tested warrior who knows how to push an aggressive message. He played a starring role in the House’s impeachment battle last year as a temporary member of the Intelligence Committee — a move that was encouraged by Trump, but enabled by McCarthy.

Earlier this year, GOP lawmakers — with McCarthy’s blessing — elected Jordan to serve as ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, hoping to put Trump’s fiercest defender on the front lines of combating Democratic oversight efforts.

Former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), meanwhile, was tapped to be the ranking member on Oversight. When Meadows resigned from Congress to become Trump’s chief of staff in March, Jordan took back the reins on Oversight. And with the coronavirus pandemic keeping lawmakers away from the Capitol, there are no immediate plans to replace Jordan, leaving him as the top Republican on two key panels.

Jordan has earned leadership’s trust and is seen as a team player, a dramatic reversal from how he was seen just a short time ago. The Ohio Republican — first elected to Congress in 2006 — was a thorn in the side of GOP leadership when they were in the majority.

Jordan and Meadows used the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus to go after McCarthy and other party leaders, often wrecking top Republicans’ plans on spending bills or other measures. After Trump was elected, the pair would go over leadership’s head to pitch their plans directly to the president, playing to his most antagonistic instincts on high-profile issues. Jordan and Meadows helped push Trump to engage in the disastrous 2018 government shutdown, for instance, despite heavy opposition from McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

McCarthy’s newfound alliance with Jordan is sure to earn him plaudits with conservatives down the road, support the California Republican may need if the GOP doesn’t win back the House in November.

This is “all about internal Republican politics,” griped one GOP lawmaker. “Appease the hard right at all costs.”

Yet Republicans repeatedly described Jordan’s ability to help boost the profile of younger members as one reason he’s fostered fierce loyalty among his colleagues. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said Jordan has made a concerted effort to mentor junior lawmakers including himself, as well as Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Kelly Armstrong of New Dakota to become more effective in high profile hearings. Rep. Jamie Comer (R-Ky.) said Jordan allows less senior members to take starring roles in committee hearings that feature issues they care about and know well.

Another huge plus for Jordan is that his growing national profile as a Trump ally has turned him into a fundraising power house. Jordan has $2.6 million cash on hand and has fundraised for dozens of his GOP colleagues.

Multiple lawmakers also credited McCarthy with being willing to set aside his adversarial relationship with Jordan for the good of the Republican Conference.

“It says a lot about McCarthy too that he’s secure enough to use the guy who ran against him for speaker. They both get along great now,” Comer said. “They’re stronger working together than fighting each other.”

Comer recalled Jordan allying with McCarthy a few weeks ago to pass a bipartisan bill updating federal surveillance laws that had been panned by the Freedom Caucus. Comer said Jordan stood up against his longtime allies to help make the case for the bill.

“Jim is an excellent investigator and has an excellent team,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a conservative hard-liner who serves on the Judiciary panel and is the new chief of the Freedom Caucus. “He is dogged in his pursuit for truth, and so I think he’s a perfect choice.”

“Jim is our most talented member, and Jim is our hardest working member. Kevin is our most likable member. Together, they’ve made a great team,” added Gaetz.

“Both [McCarthy and Jordan] recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and both have realized that they work together as a team,” he said. “I don’t think that realization would have occurred in the norms of Washington absent the crucible of impeachment.”

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