In a historically fraught time marked not only by partisan gridlock but also a remarkably incohesive Republican Party, the House GOP could soon elect a speaker with a remarkably thin legislative track record and precious little experience building the bipartisan consensus he would soon need.
Critics of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have increasingly pointed to this — most notably the fact that he has yet to get a bill signed into law since being elected in 2006.
“House Republicans have just elected a speaker nominee who in 16 years in this Congress hasn’t passed a single bill,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Friday, “because his focus has not been on the American people.”
Legislation isn’t the only measure of a member of Congress, and that statistic could be characterized as misleading. (Congress these days passes few bills, and many members never get one they wrote signed into law.) But it’s not the only data point that suggests Jordan would come into the job from a very unusual position.
The most oft-cited data on legislative success comes from the Center for Effective Lawmaking, a joint project of Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia. It tracks not only bills that become law, but bills that get some kind of traction, along with how significant the bills are. (i.e. you don’t get the same credit for getting a bill naming a post office passed as you would for an overhaul of health care.)
Lawmakers of both parties often tout these rankings when boasting that a member has had a bona fide impact on our nation’s laws.
Jordan has not had much impact, at least by this measuring stick.
CEL data have routinely ranked Jordan near the bottom of the House when it comes to his effectiveness. To wit:
Last Congress, only four lawmakers ranked below him.He has ranked in the bottom five among House Republicans each of the past four Congresses.He has ranked in the bottom quarter of House Republicans in every full Congress he served in.Before this Congress, its data don’t record any bills Jordan sponsored passing or receiving any action — whether in committee or on the floor.
How unusual is this? Part of the reason is that Jordan doesn’t sponsor a lot of bills. But other prominent members have significantly more robust track records.
For instance, CEL data show Jeffries last Congress sponsored nine “substantive” bills — i.e. not commemorative things like naming a post office — which went on to pass, including four that became law. (Jeffries was in the majority with Democrats controlling both the Senate and the presidency, but Jordan has been in a majority for most of his tenure, and his party had that same trifecta from 2017 to 2019.)
Ousted former speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during Jordan’s tenure has sponsored 17 bills that passed and eight that became law. Five of those laws were regarded as “substantive.”
And House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) during Jordan’s tenure has sponsored eight “substantive” bills that passed, including one that became law.
Jordan’s office on Monday cited 64 bills that he co-sponsored — i.e. supporting other people’s bills — that became law, as well as Jordan having “negotiated legislation directly with the White House and returned millions to the U.S. Treasury from his office budget.”
“Congressman Jordan has always done what he told the voters he would do — whether it’s assisting seniors getting Medicare and Social Security benefits, expediting passports, helping veterans, meeting with thousands of constituents, or touring hundreds of businesses in Ohio’s 4th district — and the constituents know it,” Jordan spokesman Russell Dye said.
Dye also cited significant legislation Jordan has worked on this Congress as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, including negotiations over reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and passing a tough border security bill.
But the latter one is a great example of how Jordan’s tenure has tended toward bills without bipartisan support or a chance of becoming law. From the moment the border bill passed, it has been evident it was dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Indeed, another feature of Jordan’s time in Congress is how little interest he’s shown in bipartisanship. His office has responded to his low effectiveness rankings by pointing to how Politico in 2016 labeled Jordan “arguably the second-most influential Republican in the House.” But that was because of how he “routinely thwarted his own Republican leadership’s priorities in a drive to push his party’s agenda rightward.”
Another popular measuring stick on that front is the Bipartisan Index ratings put out by the Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. The ratings track how often a member co-sponsors a bill introduced by the other party, as well as how often a member’s own bills earn co-sponsors from the across the aisle.
Here, too, Jordan ranks near the bottom. Its 2021 ratings peg him 428th out of 435 members in the first session of the last Congress. Those below him included fellow Freedom Caucus members, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.). He also ranked third-to-last in the previous Congress, from 2019 through early 2021.
Similar bipartisanship ratings from a group called the Common Ground Committee rank Jordan ahead of only three other members of Congress — Greene, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) — with a score of 0. (More than 40 other members also scored a 0, while Greene, Gallego and Kennedy were in negative territory.)
A member with that record — and who often pushed for his party to threaten government shutdowns to leverage policy concessions — could soon be in charge of negotiating with the Democratic Senate and Democratic president over must-pass legislation like funding the government. Jordan’s allies have insisted he has become more pragmatic in recent years, but that’s more by virtue of his willingness to work with GOP leaders rather than across the aisle.
Instead of focusing on passing legislation, Jordan has been a fixture in Republican-led investigations dating back to last decade. His office pointed Monday to his having “been part of — or leading — every major congressional investigation since he has entered office.”
That involvement in GOP-led inquiries has been Jordan’s clearest priority in the House since he joined it. In fact, Jordan has actually gotten a resolution passed this Congress. It was one creating the House Judiciary Committee’s Select subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. The resolution did not require the Senate to sign off to create the committee and passed with no Democratic votes.
The subcommittee, which Jordan now leads, has gone on to spin a number of thinly constructed theories about the government supposedly targeting Donald Trump and conservatives, with even some Republicans expressing reservation about its work and the lack of proof it has produced.
The fact that this is Jordan’s biggest legislative contribution would seem to speak volumes about what the GOP is prioritizing now.