Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan takes workhorse-showhorse divide to extremes

By: - February 20, 2020 12:30 am

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) attends a House Judiciary Committee meeting. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — One of the most influential members of Congress — and most ardent defenders of President Donald Trump — is also one of the least active legislatively.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan — the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the upper chamber’s main investigative arm — didn’t introduce any bills last year, according to a list ranking House members by their legislative activity.

He and one other lawmaker — Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas — were the only two members of the House who didn’t introduce a single bill last year, according to the analysis by GovTrack.us, a nonpartisan organization that tracks government data and statistics.

“There’s an old distinction that is made in terms of characterizing members of Congress between the showhorses … and the workhorses,” said Paul Beck, a professor emeritus of political science at The Ohio State University. “Jordan is clearly a showhorse.”

The seven-term lawmaker scored relatively high on a ranking of members by their committee influence, tying for 14th with numerous others. That’s thanks to his perch on the House Oversight Committee — a post he is slated to leave this spring to become the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, another high-profile panel.

But he fared poorly on other measures of legislative productivity.

Because he didn’t introduce any bills last year, he didn’t get any bills out of committee or onto the floor for consideration — which meant he tied for last on that score too.

It also meant he tied for last on lists ranking lawmakers by their ability to get other lawmakers to cosponsor their bills, their penchant for working with senators to clear legislation through both chambers and their ability to get their bills signed into law.

Jordan didn’t go out of his way to back his colleagues’ bills either. He placed 407th out of 436 lawmakers scored (the list included nonvoting members from U.S. territories) on a list ranking lawmakers by the number of bills they cosponsored last year.

The low legislative scores don’t bother him at all.

“I’ve always viewed my job not to come here and create more law and more regulation on the American people but actually to reduce the number of regulations on the American people and fight for freedom and fight for accountability,” he told the Ohio Capital Journal in a brief interview on Capitol Hill. “And that’s what I do, particularly on the committees I’m on.”

Other members of the Ohio delegation — Republican and Democrat — take a different approach.

Ohio U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan tied for 15th on the list of 436 lawmakers, introducing 37 bills in the Democratic-led chamber in 2019. Ohio Democrats Joyce Beatty and Marcy Kaptur followed him, introducing 27 and 19 bills, respectively.

GOP Reps. Bob Latta, Steve Chabot and Bob Gibbs introduced between 18 and 14 bills last year, while Democrat Marcia Fudge and Republicans David Joyce and Michael Turner each introduced 11. The rest of the delegation — GOP Reps. Steve Stivers, Warren Davidson, Brad Wenstrup, Bill Johnson, Troy Balderson and Anthony Gonzalez — introduced fewer than 10.

Ohio’s Democrats were also more likely than Republicans to cosponsor other lawmakers’ bills. Ryan scored the highest in the delegation on that score, followed by Beatty and Kaptur.

On the other side of the Capitol, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R) ranked 15th and 19th in terms of bills introduced, and 12th and 71st in terms of bills co-sponsored.

Beck said lawmakers in the minority have difficulty playing much of a legislative role, and that being a workhorse matters most when one party controls both houses of Congress and the presidency. Otherwise, even the most diligent workhorses struggle to get legislation through. “In an era of divided government, not much product is coming out of Congress,” he said.

In the media spotlight

GovTrack.us rankings show Jordan introduced few bills in the last three Congresses and ranked low on cosponsorship rankings despite GOP control of the chamber.

Yet his legislative inaction hasn’t kept him out of the media spotlight. To the contrary, the co-founder and former chair of the archconservative House Freedom Caucus, Jordan has long been an advocate for the hard right — and is now referred to as one of Trump’s fiercest attack dogs.

In 2018, he told CNN that Trump had never lied to the American people, despite heavy coverage of thousands of lies told by the president. And he mounted an aggressive defense of Trump during the impeachment inquiry as the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee and as a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

The ex-wrestler was seen as so effective that he was placed briefly on the House Intelligence Committee so he could defend the president during televised impeachment hearings, an effort that fueled a massive fundraising blitz totaling $1.4 million in the last three months of last year, Politico reported.

Jordan continues to defend the administration, telling reporters before Congress adjourned last week that “Bill Barr is doing a good job as attorney general of the United States.” The comment came as Barr was coming under fire over sentencing guidelines for Trump ally Roger Stone Jr.

Jordan — who won his last election with 65 percent of the vote — was tapped earlier this month to take the top minority spot on the Judiciary Committee, which will be vacated this spring by Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, who is running for Senate.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who fended off a leadership challenge from Jordan in 2018, praised the decision at a recent news conference, saying, “I think Jim Jordan has done an excellent job.”

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Allison Stevens
Allison Stevens

Allison Stevens is a Washington D.C. reporter for States Newsroom, a network of state-based nonprofit news outlets that includes the Ohio Capital Journal.