A new style of hardball

In 2003, the House Republican majority was struggling badly to pass George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D expansion. It was a massive, expensive program, every penny of which would be thrown onto the national debt, and conservatives were reluctant to go along with their party’s wishes.

At the end of the allotted time for the vote, Democrats had won, so Republican leaders kept the vote open and began twisting arms. In one special case, then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay told then-Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) that if he changed his vote, Republicans would give his son’s congressional campaign $100,000.

We don’t see those kinds of tactics much anymore, but Republican-brand hardball hasn’t disappeared. Take this story out of Ohio, for example.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s open defiance of Speaker John Boehner’s efforts to solve the debt-ceiling crisis could cost the Urbana Republican his safe seat in next year’s election.

Two Republican sources deeply involved in configuring new Ohio congressional districts confirmed to The Dispatch today that Jordan’s disloyalty to Boehner has put him in jeopardy of being zeroed out of a district.

“Jim Jordan’s boneheadedness has kind of informed everybody’s thinking,” said one of the sources, both of whom spoke only on condition of anonymity. “The easiest option for everybody has presented itself.”

Jordan’s rural 11-county district, which has a 60 percent Republican voter index, “is easy to cannibalize because it stretches so far,” said the other source.

“He doesn’t know it, but he solved a problem for Republican line-drawers by (figuratively) standing up and saying, ‘I’m a jerk and I deserved to be punished,’ ” said one of the sources.

Jordan, an almost-comically right-wing House member, is chairman of the House Study Committee, and has taken the lead in the House is defeating Boehner’s budget proposal. He is clearly not the GOP leadership’s favorite person right now.

But leaking word that his district might be redrawn as punishment is a pretty aggressive move.

The Speaker’s office issued a statement midday yesterday, saying Boehner “looks forward to continuing to serve” with Jordan “for many years to come.” The statement wasn’t exactly a denial of the report; one might have expected the Speaker’s office to say the rumors “unfounded” and/or have “no basis in fact.” Instead, we heard a more ambiguous response.

It did not, by the way, have the desired effect. Jordan didn’t budge and he seized on the reports to exacerbate the conflict between the GOP leadership and the large extremist wing of the party.