Conservative Republican Rep. Jim Jordan was coy Friday about whether he would seek to become House speaker — most likely setting off a battle with current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was endorsed by outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan.
"Look, there is no speaker race," Jordan, 54, a six-term Ohio congressman and founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told Politico. "Paul Ryan's the speaker.
"If and when there is, I have been encouraged by colleagues to consider that, so I'm open to that," he said.
Otherwise, the closest he has gotten to discussing a possible speaker's race was in comments on the House floor Thursday calling on Republicans to fulfill their campaign promises.
"The last 24 hours, everyone in this town's been focused on who's going to be the next speaker," Jordan said.
"Let me tell you something: A much more important question than who's going to be the next speaker, who's going to be the speaker next year, is what are Republicans going to do this year?
"Are we going to get back to doing what they elected us?" Jordan asked. "What the American people elected us to do on Nov. 8, 2016?
"Are we going to get back to doing what we told them we were going to do? The mandate of that election.
"Or are we going to keep doing pretend things like this?" he asked.
Politico called any Jordan challenge to McCarthy, 53, the Californian who also has been in the House for six terms, "a long shot" — noting that Jordan and his allies "know he's unlikely to ever garner the 218 votes needed to win the gavel."
However, Jordan could become a "kingmaker" by rallying "several dozen conservatives" in his corner to ultimately extract concessions from the eventual speaker, according to Politico.
"They're putting a marker down and saying, 'You have to deal with me,'" one Republican lawmaker said.
The Freedom Caucus openly battled Ryan's predecessor, longtime Ohio Rep. John Boehner, and played a key role in his decision to step down in 2015.
The caucus also withheld their support for McCarthy in his run for speaker then, leading him to withdraw — and opening the door to Ryan as a consensus choice.
Ryan said Wednesday that he would not seek re-election and would retire next year.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, 52, also in his sixth term, weighed a speakership run this time around, but he reportedly said that he would not if McCarthy did.
However, the Freedom Caucus is not sure what it might want from a new speaker, Politico reports, though the group has complained about being locked out of key committee assignments.
Jordan, first elected to Congress in 2006, is next in line to chair the House Oversight Committee, though he has been passed over in previous years.
But Jordan and conservatives might be looking at a key role within the House leadership ranks, possibly majority leader, one "conservative source" told Politico.
In the meantime, Jordan is extolling the Republican agenda — and subtly jabbing at current House leadership for what is not getting done.
"We haven't got the border security wall done," he told Politico. "We haven't done welfare reform.
"We need to make the tax cuts permanent. We still need to deal with Obamacare," he said.
"Those are the things we got to focus on."
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