Local Congressman Jim Jordan fights back: Tweets ‘don’t change facts’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Jordan CNN

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Urbana Republican widely seen as voice of the Freedom Caucus.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS: Congressman Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, went on CNN's State of the Union to react to President Donald Trump's Friday tweetstorm attacking him and members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Jordan and the caucus did not support Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan’s health care plan last week and essentially forced Ryan to pull the bill.

“Tweets and statements don’t change facts,” Jordan said Sunday morning.

“When you look at the legislation it doesn’t repeal Obamacare. Even people who supported it called it Obamacare light.”

Jordan also said the bill did not unify Republicans or the country.

“Let’s start over and get this thing done right and keep our promises with the American people,” Jordan said.

Trump tweeted Sunday morning: “

Talks on Repealing and Replacing ObamaCare are, and have been, going on, and will continue until such time as a deal is hopefully struck.”

EARLIER STORY: President Donald Trump last week had another first: He compared the House Freedom Caucus to Democrats.

The caucus of 35 or so conservatives, little known until it was widely credited with toppling former Speaker John Boehner two years ago, has taken on new recognition if not popularity for its role in scuttling the Republican bill to replace Obamacare.

ExploreRELATED: Trump aide urges defeat of Freedom Caucus member

The fallout has elevated the profile of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, who founded the group and is seen by many to be its voice.

Jordan and the other members of the caucus, including Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, who now has Boehner’s seat, say they’re fighting to preserve conservative values.

But Trump doesn’t view the Freedom Caucus’s role in blocking the health care bill in such noble terms.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

Later Thursday night, Trump made it even more personal by directly mentioning Jordan by name. In one tweet, Trump said if Jordan and two others members of the Freedom Caucus “would get on board we would have both great healthcare and massive tax cuts & reform.”

He also asked in a second tweet, “Where are @RepMarkMeadows, @Jim_Jordan and @Raul_Labrador? #RepealANDReplace #Obamacare?”

Trump isn’t the only Republican seething over the rigid stance of Jordan and the other members of the Freedom Caucus, which doesn’t release the names of members or say precisely how many are on board.

Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican who was one of the founding members of the caucus along with Jordan, quit the group after the health care vote, telling Fox News, “No matter what changes we made, the goal posts kept getting moved and at the end of the day, no was the answer. And sometimes you’re going to have to say yes.”

RELATED: President Trump issues threat to Jim Jordan, Freedom Caucus

Some Republicans, such as Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, have suggested that working with Democrats would be easier than finding consensus with the Freedom Caucus.

But Jim Manley, a onetime advisor to former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, said Trump and Republicans will have difficulty trying to win the votes of Democrats — even moderates — because leaders such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi have a solid hold on that caucus.

RELATED: 5 things to know about the House Freedom Caucus

“That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it will be under her terms rather than the Republicans,” Manley said. “The White House and House and Senate Republican leadership are going to have to figure out a way to deal with Congressman Jordan and the rest of the Freedom Caucus or almost nothing is going to get done for the rest of the year.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Jim Jordan on health care

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

‘Let’s just do what we said’

A former wrestling champion and coach, Jordan, 53, is becoming well-known in Washington for his combative, unyielding stance on issues he considers sacred.

As a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, whose hearings on the Benghazi attacks and other politically charged events were well publicized, Jordan developed a reputation for aggressive questioning or, as Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, once called it, “belligerent bombast.”

Throughout the Obama administration, Jordan, who was elected to Congress two years before Obama won the presidency, consistently fought to drive House Republicans further right, making it clear that any negotiation with Democrats was essentially forbidden.

That stance won him points in his conservative Ohio district — he was re-elected last year with 68 percent of the vote — but some in the party have begun to wonder whether Jordan and his allies are seeking to govern or just stir the pot.

“The only person who can intimidate them and inflict pain on them is the president,” said a Washington, D.C., Republican who asked not to be named. “I’ll bet if he started holding rallies in their districts, a lot of them would cave.”

For his part, Jordan insists that his caucus was just arguing for good policy.

“We think doing it right is the most important thing,” he said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office last week. On Thursday, after Trump’s tweet, Jordan told Fox News that while the Freedom Caucus “is trying to change Washington,” the bill “keeps Washington the same.”

“Let’s forget the blame and what may happen in the future,” he said. “Let’s just do what we said.”

Jordan says the GOP bill would have done little to nothing to lower premiums or costs and didn’t address the regulations that he claims are driving up costs. His explanation for why he fought so hard is a drum he beats constantly: He isn’t worried about the politics; He just wants to do what he told his constituents he would do.

Jordan also dismisses criticism that the caucus continually shifted their demands.

“The goal posts never moved,” he said. The only goal post that moved “was when leadership brought forward a bill that wasn’t what we told the voters we were going to do.

“No one liked this piece of legislation.”

A poll last week seemed to confirm Jordan’s assessment of the Republican bill. Only 23 percent of registered voters said they supported the American Health Care Act, while 56 percent said they were opposed, according to the survey from Public Policy Polling.

‘We just kind of ran into this deadline’

Davidson, 47, said the focus should be on getting the bill right, not on punishing those who were in opposition.

“I think the status quo in politics is to do power politics and blame,” he said when asked about Trump’s tweets. “I don’t know that when it becomes personalized that people get helpful and problem solving. It tends to harden everyone’s position.”

He compared the product to manufacturing, and said Republicans tried to rush the bill into production. Negotiations were progressing, he said, when “we just kind of ran into this deadline.”

Tom Zawistowski, president of the Portage County Tea Party, said the Freedom Caucus came out ahead during the health care debate by stamping itself as a force that can’t be ignored.

“I think they helped themselves. I really do,” he said. “By doing what they did they gave themselves a seat at the table. Like it or not, they showed they could hang together and stand for what they believed in and that they’re going to have to deal with them.”

Congressman Jim Jordan. Getty Image
Caption
Congressman Jim Jordan. Getty Image

Party division

Interviews with Republicans last week show the wounds are deep, with some blaming the caucus for effectively blowing the party’s chances of undoing a health care law they’ve long despised.

Jessica Towhey, a former aide to Boehner, said by thwarting the GOP efforts the Freedom Caucus has extended Obamacare’s impact.

“I think the president learned that you don’t negotiate with terrorists,” she joked.

Others are worried about the long-term impact if the Freedom Caucus becomes intractable in future policy debates.

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, whose district abuts Jordan’s, admitted to CNN that the caucus “absolutely” makes it harder to get anything done, telling the network that the group behaved with a “mob mentality.”

“When you get a group together that says, ‘we’re all going to pledge voting together, I think that’s certainly a group that has characteristics that the speaker needs to be very concerned about,” he said.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said the group is “unpersuadable.”

RELATED: Health bill pulled in stunning defeat for GOP

“This is a massive defeat for their party, but they’re just not going to change,” he said. “Their reaction is to dig in their heels.”

One former GOP aide said the caucus has minimized its power because it will now be shunned by the broader group of Republicans.

“To do anything else would be like Charlie Brown asking Lucy to hold the football for him a second time while still on his back,” the former aide said.

Courage applauded

Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University, said standing firm has more fallout when you’re the governing party.

“By weakening Trump, and by earning his disdain, they have made it harder for him to get things done in the future and they have made it less likely he will support a bill (on which) they approve,” he said.

But Smith gave a nod to the group for sticking to what they thought was right, despite intense pressure from party leaders.

“Agree with them or not,” he said, “we should applaud political courage when we see it.”

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