Jim Jordan-Kevin McCarthy leadership fight looms in House Republicans’ ugly rebuild


Ascendant House Democrats said they will avoid a nasty leadership fight and will keep in place the team that led them to win control in Tuesday’s elections. Republicans, meanwhile, were bracing for an ugly rebuild beginning next week when the party votes on a new crop of leaders.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said she is confident that her colleagues will elect her to be speaker of the Democrat-controlled House in January. She brushed aside dozens of lawmakers who expressed ambivalence or even outright opposition to her during the campaign.

The No. 2 and No. 3 Democrats, Reps. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, also said they will run for their posts again.

Things are much more in flux in the Republican ranks.

With Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin retiring, two lawmakers have announced bids to succeed him as the Republican floor leader.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a conservative firebrand, said he will run against Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Mr. Ryan’s top lieutenant.

The race pits two of President Trump’s top backers against each other.

“We need to lay the groundwork to regain the majority so that we can continue working alongside President Trump to fulfill our promise to fundamentally change Washington,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I helped build a majority from a deeper hole than this, and I have what it takes to do it again.”

But Mr. Jordan, co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said the Republicans’ problem is failing to live up to campaign promises.

“Have we replaced Obamacare yet? Have we secured the border yet? Have we reformed welfare yet? No,” he told The Hill.

The six-term congressman has a thin legislative record. He has made his mark more in blocking bills and creating headaches for Republican leaders who he thought were striking bad deals with Democrats.

Former House Speaker John A. Boehner, a fellow Ohio Republican, once labeled Mr. Jordan a “legislative terrorist.”

That approach, however, has endeared Mr. Jordan to a number of conservative lobby groups, which announced support for his speaker’s bid.

“We want to be very clear that the position of our activists is that if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then a vote for Kevin McCarthy for minority leader is a vote for insanity,” said Noah Wall, of FreedomWorks.

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana indicated Wednesday that he plans to run for minority whip, the No. 2 Republican position in the next Congress, bypassing a shot to battle with Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Jordan.

Meanwhile, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, announced that she plans to run for House Republican Conference chair, putting her on a crash course with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, who currently holds the job.

Mr. Trump has yet to pick sides in the Republican leadership battles but did give an unexpected shoutout Wednesday to Mrs. Pelosi. He said on Twitter that she “deserves to be chosen speaker of the House by Democrats.”

Mrs. Pelosi distanced herself from the president’s remarks during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t think anybody deserves anything,” she said before briefly making her case for the top job. “I think I’m the best person to go forward, to unify, to negotiate.”

She has been leader of the House Democrats since 2002. Since then, she has suffered in the minority, captured the majority in the 2006 elections, lost the majority in 2010 and suffered another eight years in the minority.

The 78-year-old has been joined for most of that time by Mr. Hoyer, 79, and Mr. Clyburn, 78, marking a stunning consistency despite major ups and downs.

Capitol Hill observers have long predicted a dust-up between the two men, but Mr. Clyburn said Wednesday that he is content to seek the third job: majority whip.

That is likely to be a disappointment to the Congressional Black Caucus, whose chairman reportedly called this week for at least one of the top two leaders to be black. Mr. Clyburn is black, but neither Mrs. Pelosi nor Mr. Hoyer is.

Rep. Diana DeGette, Colorado Democrat and the party’s chief deputy whip, announced that she will make a run for majority whip, challenging Mr. Clyburn.

She said the caucus needs to promote women to the leadership team.

“As we add even more women to our ranks in Congress — largely because of Democratic candidates — our caucus should reflect this strength, including at the leadership table,” she said.

Reps. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Cheri Bustos of Illinois and David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island have indicated their intentions to run for assistant Democratic leader.

Democrats will also have to find a replacement for Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who lost in a June primary to Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Candidates to replace Mr. Crowley include Rep. Linda T. Sanchez of California, the caucus’ vice chairwoman, and Rep. Barbara Lee of California.

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus told reporters in a conference call that they weren’t ready to weigh in on the leadership races. They said they were interested in having liberals in the upper echelons and making sure their electoral successes translate into more legislative sway in the 116th Congress.

“We want to make sure leadership is moving progressive ideas forward,” said Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, co-chair of the group.


The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here