As House members come back to Washington next week to pick their party leaders for the next session of Congress, Jim Jordan’s insurgent conservative campaign to take the helm of the incoming minority has two big issues to contend with.
Jordan’s first problem is that all of his prospects hinge on whether or not the remaining House Republicans care to re-evaluate the approach of the last two years.
Establishment Republicans notorious for learning the wrong lessons from elections, or rather, only choosing to heed the lessons that keep them comfortable. Even after the number of moderate losses Tuesday night, the Freedom Caucus is still a minority on the House. That means they’ll need enough non-caucus members to agree to a change of course to get Jordan across the finish line.
The other problem is going to be how the vote is held. As Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and a Congressional Research Service report explain below, the race for minority leader is voted on by secret ballot, unlike the speaker’s race.
This puts Jordan at a disadvantage to current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in one respect. Whereas McCarthy can expect a lot of support from moderates and the rest of the rank and file, most of Jordan’s non-HFC support is going to come from pressure on members from conservative grassroots organizations and constituents. Neither of those really matter when nobody can be held accountable for his or her vote.
That means that Jordan is going to have to make his pitch directly to House Republicans without the backup he would otherwise get from outside the D.C. Swamp.
On the other hand, a secret ballot could actually help Jordan’s vote totals, as fewer Republicans would have to fear backlash from their fellow party members (especially those in leadership positions) for voting against McCarthy.
Changing that would require the Republican conference to change how it selects leadership. This would require convening a committee appointed by the speaker and chaired by the senior Republican on the House Rules Committee, according to the conference rules.
Jordan’s path to minority leader isn’t impossible, but it’s a long, difficult way to the top.