Jordan Appears Poised to Head RSC
The Republican Study Committee will see a rise in membership no matter which party controls the House after the midterm elections, and at least one Member is already positioned to take charge of the House’s internal conservative think tank in 2011.
Rep. Jim Jordan has quietly been laying the groundwork to run for the chairmanship, conservatives with knowledge of the RSC dynamics said, and the Ohioan has already amassed significant support within the conservative group.
“He is the frontrunner,” one former RSC aide said. “And he wants it.”
Jordan declined to comment on whether he would pursue the post next year, saying in a recent interview that he was focused on the November elections and bringing more conservatives into the House.
“I think it is an important organization, and I try to be as active as I can, but I’m not thinking about anything but Nov. 2 and will make those decisions on Nov. 3,” he said.
Like leadership positions within the full House Republican Conference, the RSC chairman is not picked until after the election.
Jordan’s record is not unlike many conservatives in the House, but Republican sources familiar with the RSC’s inner workings cited the two-term Member’s commitment to the RSC as proof that he has designs on the conservative group’s top job.
Several Republican aides and observers noted that Jordan attends nearly every RSC event, be it a press conference or the weekly meeting.
“He has made the RSC his No. 1 commitment,” one former RSC aide said.
Jordan’s position as head of the RSC Budget and Spending Task Force also points to greater ambition within the group because the post is seen as a training ground for Members who hope to rise to chairman.
“He is very well-positioned in the RSC to take that role,” a House GOP aide said.
Jordan, who has been a known fiscal conservative since his days in the Ohio House, has also made it a point to work with Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) on spending-related issues.
Most recently, he appeared in a video with Price to discuss an RSC spending initiative as a part of the “America Speaking Out” agenda project.
Price’s two-year term as chairman expires at the end of the 111th Congress.
“A lot of it is that he has demonstrated a quiet confidence on the issues he’s engaged in on the budget and spending,” said one GOP observer outside of Capitol Hill.
Jordan has also showed a willingness to buck GOP leadership, including Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio).
“Leadership did not want the RSC to produce a budget,” the former RSC aide said. Price and Jordan were asked to instead coalesce around the budget proposal presented by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), ranking member of the Budget Committee.
Jordan released an RSC budget anyway, including a proposal to freeze discretionary spending at 2008 levels until the budget is balanced in 2019.
“It was a great example of him going against his own Ohio leader,” the former aide said, adding that traditionally the RSC prefers to have a chairman from a different region than the House leader. “It was a good moment for him.”
The GOP observer described Jordan’s budget as “one of the most ambitious legislative proposals to come down the pike in years.”
Jordan has also tread into social issues that some Republicans have shunned over the past few years. Earlier this year, he and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah) led the Republican effort to block a law in Washington, D.C., to legalize same-sex marriage.
While several former RSC chairmen, such as Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), have used Jordan’s current role as leader of the RSC Budget and Spending Task Force as a steppingstone to chairman, several conservatives cautioned it is not necessarily a guarantee.
Rep. John Campbell (Calif.) held the position in the 110th Congress, but he withdrew from the race for RSC chairmanship after voting in 2008 for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a bill the RSC vehemently opposed.
The former RSC aide said Jordan could also face a challenge from other Members who haven’t made their intentions for the post as clear.
Whoever becomes chairman will lead the largest RSC since the group was founded in 1973 by then-Rep. Phil Crane (Ill.).
Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, said that of the 60 Republican candidates who are most likely to be elected in November, 59 have signed onto ATR’s pledge to oppose income tax increases on businesses or individuals.
Price declined to comment on whether Jordan will succeed him, but he said he anticipated that the group would grow from its current level of 116 Members to 150 to 160 Members if Republicans take back the House.
He said increased membership would “help focus the conference on positive conservative solutions that Americans want.”
Price said the challenge for the new chairman would be keeping a larger crop of lawmakers active and engaged in the RSC.
He advised the Member who succeeds him to “stay bold and stay active.”
“Engage as many people as possible,” Price said. “It’ll be hard to keep everybody active in areas where they have an expertise or a passion.”