NPR logo In House GOP's Jim Jordan, Boehner Faces Rival Force In Fellow Ohioan

In House GOP's Jim Jordan, Boehner Faces Rival Force In Fellow Ohioan

Rep. Jim Jordan (far right) at a Capitol Hill news conference, July 26, 2010. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Jim Jordan (far right) at a Capitol Hill news conference, July 26, 2010.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

So, who's the most powerful Ohio Republican in the U.S. House, at least this week? Or make that simply, who is the most powerful House Republican right now?

House Speaker John Boehner?

Or is it three-term Congressman Jim Jordan who engineered the slow, painful death of Boehner's initial debt increase-and-spending cuts package?

A week ago, a typical response may have been: "Jim Who?"

But Jordan, who describes himself quite accurately as "one of the most conservative members of Congress," emerged this week as the person best able to corral the power of the party's 87 Tea Party freshmen into a force with which to be reckoned.

With Jordan's guidance, the powerful new faction pushed the nation into unknown territory and economic uncertainty - resisting the pressure and pleading of Boehner and his team to help pass the plan, and rejecting as "scare tactics" ominous default warnings from the White House and others.

(Note: As the debt debacle continued to play out in Congress, the Dow on Friday finished its worst week in a year.)

The Tea Party pressure, coupled with that of outside groups like the free-marketers at Club for Growth, forced Boehner to frantically rewrite his proposal to include a balanced budget amendment they demanded.

It seems to matter little to Jordan and the freshmen Tea Party class that the legislation will be DOA if/when it passes the House. Jordan, 47, a former national champion wrestler and coach, will get credit from his supporters for a symbolic take down.

For Jordan-watchers back home in north central Ohio, his emergence on this issue is no surprise.

"Jim Jordan is very principled, and believes in what he's doing," says Ohio Northern University political science professor Robert Alexander. "There's not a lot of room for compromise."

Alexander describes Jordan as "Tea Party before there was a Tea Party."

In addition to his debt-and-tax-cutting passion, he's staunchly anti-abortion, he opposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and attempted to get an anti-same-sex marriage measure passed that would define marriage in the District of Columbia as between a man and a womAn.

Jordan chairs the House GOP's conservative Republican Study Committee caucus, and has led its budget and spending task force. It was in that role that Jordan was forced to apologize to angry fellow Republicans earlier this week after study committee staffers sent emails to conservative activists them to pressure undecided lawmakers to kill Boehner's plan.

The Columbus Dispatch later reported that GOP sources said state Republicans who control redistricting could redraw district lines to punish Jordan with a more competitive district for undermining Boehner.

Boehner has dismissed the claim.

Jordan, who is married with four children, comes from an exceptionally safe Republican district that includes the small cities of Mansfield and Lima.

The 11 counties in his district have not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.

Jordan, who has a law degree from Capital University and served 12 years in the Ohio House and Senate, was elected to Congress after GOP Rep. Michael Oxley retired in 2006.

When asked why he got into politics, he recently told the Associated Press: "The reason I got into politics was to affect the things I care about, the things I think the families I get the privilege to represent care about," he said.

"I'm going to do it with a smile on my face, I'm going to do it in a way that helps our party, but, most importantly, I'm going to do it because I think it helps the country," he said.

He has referred to the freshmen House Republicans swept into office last fall as the "cavalry, sent by the American people to Washington to change things."

"He's feisty, and in my opinion, he's very amiable but can cut down your argument in seconds flat," Alexander says. "He's got a lot of energy and he's great at sound bites."

The stars, he says, have now aligned for Jordan.

What that means for governance is becoming clearer.

Nobody sees Jordan caving. And that likely includes his fellow Buckeye stater who, on paper at least, leads the House.