Juan Ayala | United States
“[The Freedom Caucus] can’t tell you what they’re for. They can’t tell you what they’re against. They’re anarchists, they want total chaos.” – Former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)
“…to solve immigration reform, House Republicans have to break precedent and bring a bill to the floor that offends the Freedom Caucus.” – Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
“..the Freedom Caucus has ruined the Republican Party” – Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
So, just who is this growing group of conservatives and why should you care?
The Freedom Caucus: A Background
In 2009-2012, President Obama carried out his agenda through the stimulus package and poured money into the economy through government subsidies. Out of this “pork barrel spending,” the Tea Party was born. The caucus consists of candidates that were angry with what they thought were big government bailouts. Thusly, they became part of this grassroots movement to accomplish what they believed establishment Republicans were not.
According to the group’s Twitter, they support an open and accountable government, constitutionalism, and rule of law. Senators in the caucus include Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. Some notable Representatives in the caucus include Thomas Massie and Justin Amash.
Relationship to Trump
The Republican Party is split over those who are openly criticizing Trump and those who let his rhetoric go by the wayside. The leaders of the Caucus are “brave, tough cookies” for Trump, as he puts it. Others like South Carolina Representative Mark Sanford have a lesser relationship with Trump. Sanford boasted an 80% positive rating with Trump’s voters and many see him as a constitutional conservative. However, his criticism of Trump led to the President releasing negative tweets about him the night of his primary. Many GOP strategists believe that these untimely tweets cost Sanford the race.
How the Caucus Operates
Congress is messy. The procedures and work schedule are an extremely difficult aspect of Congress and the Freedom Caucus doesn’t make it any easier.
Imagine you need 100 people to agree on an issue in your local community about implementing Common Core; you have 40 people in favor and 40 against. The final 20 want it abolished, to get rid of sex education and also want one of their members on the local school board. You have to give them 2/3 of what they’re asking for their support and need 51 people to agree to pass any measure, so a compromise must occur. Clearly, it’s damn near impossible to get there.
The previously mentioned 20 in the example would be the House Freedom Caucus, a group of four-dozen or so hardline conservatives (out of 199 Republican-held seats). Their presence can hinder a bill’s progress. Most notably, they killed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was supposed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump infamously blamed them for the death of the AHCA. They have also opposed most immigration reform bills.
Remember, these are voting members of Congress and their opinions can very much impact anyone’s life.
The Growth of the Caucus
There is no official membership list. The founders, Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH), court candidates. Contributing to an individual’s campaign is a key part of the Caucus. Following the 2018 midterms, the Caucus adds to its ranks Ben Cline (R-VA) and Chip Roy (R-TX). They expect another five to six members to join their ranks.
New Progressives, Hardline Conservatives & The Future
On camera, Congress is always ready for a 30-second sound bite. It’s the content that gets clicks, retweets and presumably also why Ocasio-Cortez was seated on a committee that also has Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan on it. The far-right and far-left are emerging in the House. Consequently, there will be an already uphill battle to achieve a consensus on commonsense approaches.
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