LIMA — To an outsider, U.S. Reps. Bob Latta and Jim Jordan could be interchangeable politicians.
The two Ohioans entered the House of Representatives in the exact same year — gaining strong wins for their seats in 2007 after serving close to a decade in Ohio’s General Assembly. Now further along in their careers — Jim and Bob, Jordan and Latta — both have gained overwhelming support from their conservative constituencies, often gaining 60 percent of votes from their abutting northwest Ohio districts.
They even kind of look like each other, sharing the same thin-lipped smiles in their political head shots.
But in recent years, Jordan — despite his inability to enact a single one of his introduced bills as a Congressman — has set himself apart, even receiving presidential accolades on the national stage in front of a backdrop of camouflage-painted tanks and American flags.
“A man who I will never wrestle. He was one of the best wrestlers in the history of college wrestling. His record is so ridiculously good,” President Donald Trump said about Ohio’s 4th Congressional District representative during his visit to the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center last Wednesday.
“Jim Jordan – a great guy, a great athlete, a great guy. You want to have him on your side.”
In comparison, Latta got little more than a mention.
Since beginning their legislative careers, Latta and Jordan have differed in their approach to the role of a legislator, which can be seen as early as the first time the two have served in the same legislative body: Ohio’s 122nd General Assembly.
Back in 1997, after serving five years as a Wood County Commissioner, Latta had been elected to serve Ohio’s 2nd Senate district. Meanwhile, in the House, the sophomore state Rep. Jim Jordan had just been re-elected after touting his experience in welfare reform. By the end of the session, Latta had introduced 18 bills to Jordan’s nine.
The dichotomy has continued throughout their federal career. Govtrack.us, a Congressional tracking website, releases an annual “Report Card” ranking the productivity of every federal representative and senator. Every year, Latta ranks in the top 50 percent of the members of Congress, and Jordan comes in at the bottom. That’s because GovTrack bases the majority of its annual ranking on bills and not influence.
A dive into Latta’s legislative history shows that the representative has introduced 128 bills since he began his federal career in 2007, and he’s been able to get 11 of those bills enacted – some through presidential approval and others through incorporation into other passed bills.
“Getting things done for the people of Ohio’s 5th Congressional District is my top priority as their representative,” Latta said in a press release. “I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves and do the tough job of legislating – especially when it comes to policies that will help my constituents – and the findings from these Congressional trackers recognize that.”
Due to his work, Latta is just one of six representatives who can brag about such a record.
In comparison, Jordan has introduced 28 bills as a national legislator with a number of such bills repeatedly introduced in prior Congressional sessions. For example, Jordan has introduced the Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act four times since 2011. Every time, it has failed to get out of committee.
In fact, Jordan has yet to see any his introduced bills enacted in the decade that he’s been in Congress.
But it’s hard to argue that Jordan hasn’t been effective, especially in influencing the inner workings of Congress. Former House Speaker John Boehner famously labeled Jordan a “legislative terrorist” for his work, and the amount of furor he is able to draw out voters on the other side of the aisle speaks to his ability to catalyze a conversation.
Risk and Reward
Ohio Northern University political science assistant professor Anne Whitesell explained that legislators often change how they legislate due to how they weigh compromise and political risk. In Jordan’s case, the legislator is famous in the region for his principles because he rarely plays the game of give and take. And since he has yet to be seriously challenged on the campaign trail, he has little to no political risk in holding strongly to his beliefs. In fact, he might lose his support back home if he does bend.
The combination allows Jordan to hold a veto in his own right. Whitesell gave the example of the Freedom Caucus’s work, which has largely established itself as an opposition group to the wider Republican party.
“Jordan doesn’t have to put forth new ideas, but he can be vocal about the things he doesn’t want,” Whitesell said.
“The people of the Fourth District of Ohio, who I have the privilege of serving, deserve nothing less than a government that is completely transparent and accountable. We work tirelessly to fight for taxpayers, eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government, and do what we said we would do,” Jordan said in a statement when asked about his legislative approach.
Whitesell said Latta’s “less controversial” and “quieter” approach has less political risk than Jordan’s. Releasing new bills is a good way to signal to voters back home that he’s working to their benefit, and that has largely been effective in binding support.
“For both of them, what legislators are trying to do is go back home to their districts and show that they’ve done something,” Whitesell said. “Jordan can say, ‘I fought for you. I was a vocal critic.’ And that’s doing his job. That’s representing his district.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.