Skip to comments.Mr. Right: Urbana’s Rep. Jim Jordan
Posted on 05/05/2013 7:24:56 AM PDT by Deadeye Division
Mr. Right: Urbanas Rep. Jim Jordan
Conservative lawmaker and ex-wrestler sticks to his word and principles
WASHINGTON To understand Jim Jordan the politician, you need to understand Jim Jordan and scorecards.
As a wrestler at Graham High School near Urbana and then the University of Wisconsin, Jordans fate often was sealed by the scorecard that determined which wrestler had won, either through quick pins or arduously wearing down his competition.
As an underdog politician running for the Ohio legislature, Jordans scorecard was Election Night finding out if his hard work and the endless hours spent knocking on doors resulted in victory.
Now, as a four-term member of the U.S. House, the scorecard is still there: It is in the nudges Jordan makes to prod his party to the political right. Its in the relentless push to slash spending and sell that idea to an American electorate that has of late been wary of electing Republicans.
There is a scorecard, Jordan said. You either have got the votes to get it done, got the votes to stop it and so thats the part that I like.
To Republican conservatives, Jordan is a hero: Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas in January voted on the floor for Jordan to replace House Speaker John Boehner of West Chester. At a gathering last month of House GOP conservatives, a reporter asked who the group wanted as president of the United States.
Jim Jordan, one Republican replied.
Our goal in life is to have 535 Jim Jordans in Washington, said Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County Tea Party.
Yet Jordan irks some GOP colleagues who argue that his resistance to compromise hobbles Boehners ability to govern in the House. Ohio Republicans were so irritated they briefly toyed with eliminating Jordans congressional seat during the 2011 redistricting battles.
He epitomizes the just-say-no attitude of House Republicans, said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. He believes that one of his roles is to keep the speaker in line and make sure hes not cutting deals with the Senate and the president that he (and other conservatives) believe are bad. Manley called the group the enforcers of a rigid, conservative ideology that is determined to grind the government to a halt.
In early January, Jordan and 150 other Republicans broke with Boehner to oppose a compromise to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for families earning less than $450,000. Jordan voted against it because it raised taxes on upper-income Americans and contained puny budget cuts. But in the long run, Jordans rigid anti-tax principles might have collided with his end goal: Had the bill failed, every American would have had an income-tax increase.
Last month, Jordan joined a group of conservative Republicans to torpedo a House Republican leadership plan to provide health-care coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions, spurring one columnist to muse that Jordan and fellow conservatives eat their own.
Hes got a wrestlers mentality, one former GOP lobbyist said. You are not afraid to mix it up, you enjoy competition, you are tough, and when you wrestle, its you and the other guy and people will see if hes going to pin you. If you are good at it, youre not intimidated. I dont mean hes brash or egotistical. When you are a wrestler, you dont get intimidated easily.
It makes Jordan, at times, an anomaly: Politicians, after all, need to be liked to win votes. But Jordan shrugs off criticism, saying that if you got mad at everyone who said something bad about you, you wouldnt have time to do anything.
He also is a bit of an oxymoron. Hes comfortable with being an underdog, but he is well acquainted with victory. Take his high-school wrestling record 150 victories and one defeat, a loss so painful he still remembers the winners name. Then theres his college wrestling record: He is a two-time NCAA Division I champion.But ask him which win was the most memorable, and he reverts to the underdog, citing his victory at the state high-school tournament as a freshman.
I didnt know some freshman from Graham High School, a redneck country boy, wasnt supposed to win, Jordan said. All I knew was what my dad told me. He said, If you set goals, work hard, good things can happen, and I was dumb enough to believe him.
Jordan was the same underdog in 2000 when he stunned everyone by ousting veteran state Rep. Jim Buchy in the Republican primary for a state Senate seat. Everyone who mattered endorsed Buchy Gov. Bob Taft, the speaker of the Ohio House, the president of the Senate, and the state auditor.
The only politician who stood by Jordan was Matt Huffman, then president of the Lima City Council and now a state representative. When Jordan told Huffman that most state Republicans were supporting Buchy, Jordan offered, If you want to drop out, you can.
Huffman promised to continue working for Jordan, then hung up the phone and told his father, Were going to get killed in this election. But the indefatigable Jordan won with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
As a state senator, he continued his underdog style. When Taft in 2003 planned to propose an increase in cigarette and alcohol taxes to help erase a huge budget deficit, the governor telephoned Jordan to ask for support.
Governor, I like you, Jordan told Taft. I just disagree with you. Jordan stood firm but acknowledged that when the governor is on the phone yelling at you, its not always the most pleasant thing in the world.
Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said: Thats one of those things where Jim did exactly what he told people he was going to do. Ive always been impressed by Jim because no matter what, when the chips are down, hes going to do what he said hes going to do, and he does what he believes in.
To Jordan, a Republican governor calling for higher taxes violated his guiding political philosophy. We were sent here to do the people's business and represent families, Jordan told reporters at the time. To me, that means not raising taxes . . . Families are already taxed enough.
A decade later, Jordan expressed the same sentiments. To me, its always been about a simple concept: Whats in the best interest of families? I just believe in the fundamental thing that the first institution the good Lord put together wasnt the church, it wasnt the state, it was the family. And the strength of that institution is going to determine how strong your country and your society is.
Jordans definition of what is good for the family infuriates critics. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts, known as a sequester, that went into effect on March 1. Jordan dismissed the impact of the cuts, saying, The sun will come up tomorrow.
But there were consequences. Civilian workers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton face unpaid furloughs. In some states, children have been knocked off the pre-school Head Start program.
When the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily furloughed air-traffic controllers, outraged Americans protested so vehemently that Congress last month ordered the controllers back to work. True to form, Jordan was one of 41 House lawmakers who voted against ending the FAA furloughs.
Give him credit for consistency, but thats about it, Manley said. The fact is while he and the others (GOP conservatives) may be satisfied with the sequester right now, its bad policy and bad for the country.
Jordans style has earned him criticism and praise from Democrats. Jim Slone, the Democrat who ran against Jordan last year, disputed Jordans reputation for being straightforward, saying, Im not the best debater in the world. But I did recognize a lot of B.S. when I saw it.
Other Democrats gravitate toward him. Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Cleveland, who led a House subcommittee with Jordan, calls the 49-year-old congressman honest and straightforward. The two are close enough friends that Kucinich and his wife attended the wedding of Jordans daughter.
His word is good, Kucinich said. He doesnt play games in a town where people say one thing one day and another thing another day. Hes consistent.
Jordan makes it clear that any rebellion is professional, not personal. When Huelskamp voted for him as speaker, Jordan shook his head woefully and received a joking nudge from Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township. Minutes later, he joined the rest of the Ohio delegation to escort Boehner as he accepted the speakers gavel.
But more important, Jordan seemed more in tune with Boehner on spending and taxes, offering advice to the leadership team with other key House conservatives early this year.
Like Jordan, Boehner was a firm advocate for the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts. Jordan was thrilled when Boehner successfully pushed for a House Republican budget that balances the federal budget by 2023 without raising taxes.
The speakers been solid, Jordan said. I think hes done a great job over the last three months. Were in a new year, a new Congress. Part of life is looking at the glass half full, and right now its pretty good for us.
Dispatch Senior Editor Joe Hallett contributed to this story.
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