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Doug Collins expected to step down as top Republican on Judiciary Committee

POLITICO logo POLITICO 1/30/2020 By Melanie Zanona
Doug Collins with collar shirt: House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins. © Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins.

Rep. Doug Collins is not expected to stay on as the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee as he seeks a Georgia Senate seat, according to several GOP lawmakers and aides, opening up a coveted top slot on the powerful panel.

Collins, however, won’t be stepping down right away.

Under GOP conference rules, Collins — who announced Wednesday that he will challenge Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in a special election this fall — is required to step down from the Judiciary panel because he’s running for higher office, unless he obtains a waiver.

Collins huddled with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a timeframe for turning over the reins of the Judiciary Committee. McCarthy indicated to POLITICO that Collins wouldn’t be forced out immediately, noting that “you have staff and everything” to think about. But he said the GOP Steering Committee will meet next week to discuss it further.

“I follow the committee and conference rules, and we’ll help out wherever we can help out and go from there,” Collins said. “But from our perspective, we’re focused on impeachment.”

Whenever Collins does give up his spot as ranking member, it is likely to set off a scramble in the House GOP — and could wind up putting a pair of top Trump allies on top of two key committees that serve as the frontlines of the president’s defense in the House.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is currently the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, is expected to make a play for the Judiciary spot, according to several lawmakers and aides. Jordan’s office declined to comment.

The Ohio Republican was vying to be ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee back in 2018. But Jordan, who had earned a reputation as a troublemaker during his years leading the conservative House Freedom Caucus, dropped his bid after he said GOP leadership made clear he wouldn’t succeed.

Jordan, however, has come a long way since Republicans entered the minority. Jordan has mended his relationship with McCarthy, whom he once challenged for minority leader, and as a top ally of President Donald Trump has emerged as a key team player in the impeachment battle. Not only was he temporarily brought over to the House Intelligence Committee for the public impeachment hearings, but Jordan was also tapped by Trump to serve as an impeachment surrogate during the Senate trial.

Other Republicans that some think could be in the mix for ranking Judiciary member include Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), a former prosecutor who had a major role defending Trump in impeachment; Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), another impeachment surrogate and head of the conservative Republican Study Committee; and veteran Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), who ran for the spot in 2018.

But lawmakers and aides think Jordan has the strongest chances — and if McCarthy throws his weight behind Jordan, it could earn him plaudits with conservative Freedom Caucus members further down the road, especially if McCarthy seeks the speakership one day.

If Jordan slides over to Judiciary, that would also open up a spot on the House Oversight Committee. Retiring Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), another top Trump ally who has played a major role behind the scenes during impeachment, could be a prime contender for that top spot.

In 2018, Meadows was vying to be ranking member on Oversight — but he bowed out of the race so he could let Jordan, one of his closest friends and allies in Congress, take the job instead.

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