Behind virtually every monkey wrench thrown into the gears of the legislative process over the past few years is a group of 40 libertarian-leaning, conservative members of the House known as the “Freedom” Caucus. Exasperated establishment Republicans have labeled them as “bomb throwers.” Caucus member Justin Amash of Michigan disagrees. Amash says it’s all about the rules – which, according to him, soon-to-be ex-Speaker John Boehner hasn’t been following. He and fellow Freedom Caucus members want to be certain that whoever takes over as Speaker is going to adhere to those rules.
According to its mission statement, “The House Freedom Caucus gives a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them. We support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.”
Not surprisingly, they are aligned with the Tea Party. Despite the fact that the GOP has the biggest majority in 90 years, they’ve been unable to get anything accomplished, largely because of the Freedom Caucus. Appearing recently on NPR’s Fresh Air, Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone explained:
The fundamental problem that House Republicans have is that there’s two parties effectively inside the same conference. There’s a Tea Party faction, and then there’s an establishment Republican faction…management of the House requires strict party line discipline. There are lots of procedural votes that require Republicans to stick together just to set up legislation on the House floor… that requires 218 Republican votes. House conservatives [Freedom Caucus members] have realized that if they withhold their consent from these procedural votes, they can stymie his agenda.
This is why the Freedom Caucus wields power out of all proportion to its numbers. Dickinson adds,
“These guys are sort of very devoted to the House rulebook and willing to use strange procedural tactics to force their will on the majority of their parties.”
That is how the Caucus is disrupting the process today, as the GOP looks for new leadership to replace Boehner. According to Amash, Boehner wasn’t “conservative enough.” Currently, Freedom Caucus is endorsing Florida Representative Daniel Webster, who may have trouble holding on to his seat because of court-ordered redistricting.
The Republican Establishment labels them “bomb-throwing ideologues,” who have literally been engaging in political extortion in order to get their way and ram their agenda down everyone’s throats. Amash claims they simply want the legislature to operate according to established procedural rules. He’s saying, “The worst scenarios where you have one person or a small group of people dictate to everyone else what the outcome is going to be in advance.”
But isn’t that exactly what the Freedom Caucus has been doing? Fellow libertarian and constituent Robin Daning thinks so. Calling Amash out for hypocrisy, he told Politico, “[Amash] is saying we shouldn’t let a minority control the situation…but the Freedom Caucus is trying to do the same thing. They’ll withhold votes and do different things to gum up the process. They’re a minority, too.”
Daning is correct. Amash claims that the Freedom Caucus’ agenda is not to pull the GOP even further to the right, although he admits many Caucus members would certainly like to see that happen. Nonetheless, that’s what it looks like from outside the Beltway. Whenever they haven’t gotten their way, Freedom Caucus members have been behaving like spoiled, bratty children having a tantrum, sabotaging any and all attempts at reconciliation and compromise.
Arguably, the Freedom Caucus is a big part of the reason public approval of Congress is at historic lows. Time to clean the Republican House.