Freedom Caucus
ChairmanScott Perry
Vice ChairmanJim Jordan
FoundedJanuary 26, 2015; 7 years ago (2015-01-26)
Split fromRepublican Study Committee
Ideology
Political positionRight-wing to far-right
National affiliationRepublican Party
Seats in House Republican Conference
44 / 212
Seats in the House
44 / 435
Website
Campaign website

The Freedom Caucus, also known as the House Freedom Caucus, is a congressional caucus consisting of conservative Republican members of the United States House of Representatives. It is generally considered to be the most conservative and farthest-right bloc within the House Republican Conference.[1][2][3][4][5]

The caucus was formed in January 2015 by a group of conservatives and Tea Party movement members,[6][7] with the aim of pushing the Republican leadership to the right.[2] Its first chairman, Jim Jordan, described the caucus as a "smaller, more cohesive, more agile and more active" group of conservative representatives.[8]

The caucus is positioned on the right-wing[9] to far-right[10] of the political spectrum, with certain members holding right-wing populist beliefs,[11] such as opposition to immigration reform.[12] Its members hold socially and fiscally conservative views,[13] and most are supportive of Donald Trump.[14] The caucus includes some members who are considered libertarians.[15][16] The caucus supports House candidates through its PAC, the House Freedom Fund.[17][18]

History

The caucus originated during the mid–January 2015 Republican congressional retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania.[19] According to founding member Mick Mulvaney, "that was the first time we got together and decided we were a group, and not just a bunch of pissed-off guys".[20] Nine conservative active Republican members of the House began planning a new congressional caucus separate from the Republican Study Committee and apart from the House Republican Conference. The founding members who constituted the first board of directors for the new caucus were Republican representatives Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Jim Jordan of Ohio, John Fleming of Louisiana, Matt Salmon of Arizona, Justin Amash of Michigan, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, Mulvaney, of South Carolina, Ron DeSantis of Florida and Mark Meadows of North Carolina.[21]

Mick Mulvaney told Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, "We had twenty names, and all of them were terrible. None of us liked the Freedom Caucus, either, but it was so generic and so universally awful that we had no reason to be against it." According to Lizza, "one of the working titles for the group was the Reasonable Nutjob Caucus."[20][22]

During the crisis over the funding of the Department of Homeland Security in early 2015, the caucus offered four plans for resolution, but all were rejected by the Republican leadership. One of the caucus leaders, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, said the caucus would offer an alternative that the most conservative Republican members could support.[23][needs update]

Following the election of Donald Trump, Mick Mulvaney said "Trump wants to turn Washington upside down — that was his first message and his winning message. We want the exact same thing. To the extent that he's got to convince Republicans to change Washington, we're there to help him ... and I think that makes us Donald Trump's best allies in the House."[24]

Opposition to Speaker of the House John Boehner

The newly formed group declared that a criterion for new members in the group would be opposition to John Boehner as Speaker of the House and willingness to vote against or thwart him on legislation that the group opposed.[25]

The House Freedom Caucus was involved in the resignation of Boehner on September 25, 2015, and the ensuing leadership battle for the new speaker.[26] Members of the caucus who had voted against Boehner for speaker felt unfairly punished, accusing him of cutting them off from positions in the Republican Study Committee and depriving them of key committee assignments.[27][28] Boehner found it increasingly difficult to manage House Republicans with the fierce opposition of conservative members of the Republican Party in the House, and he sparred with those House Republicans in 2013 over their willingness to shut down the government in pursuit of goals such as repealing the Affordable Care Act. These Republicans later created and became members of the Freedom Caucus when it was created in 2015.[25][29][30][31]

After Boehner resigned as speaker, Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, was initially the lead contender to succeed him, but the Freedom Caucus withheld its support.[32] However, McCarthy withdrew from the race on October 8, 2015, after appearing to suggest that the Benghazi investigation's purpose had been to lower the approval ratings of Hillary Clinton.[33][34] On the same day as McCarthy's withdrawal, Reid Ribble resigned from the Freedom Caucus saying he had joined to promote certain policies and could not support the role that it was playing in the leadership race.[35]

On October 20, 2015, Paul Ryan announced that his bid for the speaker of the United States House of Representatives was contingent on an official endorsement by the Freedom Caucus.[36] While the group could not reach the 80% approval that was needed to give an official endorsement, on October 21, 2015, it announced that it had reached a supermajority support for Ryan.[37] On October 29, 2015, Ryan succeeded John Boehner as the speaker of the House.[38]

Backlash in 2016

The group faced backlash from the Republican Party establishment during the 2016 election cycle.[39] One of its members, Congressman Tim Huelskamp, a Tea Party Republican representing Kansas' First District, was defeated during a primary election on August 2, 2016, by Roger Marshall.[40]

Rejection of American Health Care Act in 2017

On March 24, 2017, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the House Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, was withdrawn by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan because it lacked the votes to pass, due in large part to opposition from Freedom Caucus Republicans who believed that the replacement provisions had the effect of failing to repeal some elements of the original Affordable Care Act.[41][42][43]

Two days later, President Donald Trump publicly criticized the Freedom Caucus and other right-wing groups, such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action, that opposed the bill. Trump tweeted: "Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Obamacare!"[44][45] On the same day, Congressman Ted Poe of Texas resigned from the Freedom Caucus.[46] On March 30, 2017, Trump "declared war" on the Freedom Caucus, sending a tweet urging Republicans to "fight them" in the 2018 midterm elections "if they don’t get on the team" (i.e., support Trump's proposals).[47] Vocal Freedom Caucus member Justin Amash responded by accusing Trump of "succumb[ing] to the D.C. Establishment."[48]

Trump later developed a closer relationship with the caucus chair, Mark Meadows.[49] In April 2018, Trump described three caucus members—Meadows, Jim Jordan, and Ron DeSantis—as "absolute warriors" for their defense of him during the course of the Special Counsel investigation.[50]

Criticism from Boehner

On October 30, 2017, Vanity Fair published an interview with Republican former House speaker John Boehner, who said of the Freedom Caucus: "They can't tell you what they're for. They can tell you everything they're against. They're anarchists. They want total chaos. Tear it all down and start over. That's where their mindset is."[51]

Impeachment proceedings against President Trump

In May 2019, the Freedom Caucus officially condemned one of its founding members, Justin Amash, after he called for the impeachment of President Trump.[52] Amash announced in June 2019 that he had left the caucus, saying "I didn't want to be a further distraction for the group."[53]

Members of the Freedom Caucus have taken an active role in the impeachment investigation into President Trump that was launched in September 2019. Members of the Caucus have called for the release of the full transcript of former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker's testimony to Congress.[54]

The caucus was described as "Trump's main defender" during the impeachment proceedings in the House.[55]

Meadows' appointment as WH chief of staff and Liz Cheney criticism

In March 2020, former Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows was appointed as White House chief of staff, replacing Mick Mulvaney, who was also a founding member of the Freedom Caucus.[56]

Freedom Caucus members have called on Liz Cheney to resign as Chair of the House Republican Conference, due to her vocal criticism of Trump's foreign policy, response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and use of social media,[57] leading to her firing May 12, 2021, and replacement by Elise Stefanik two days later.

2020 National Defense Authorization Act

In December 2020, the caucus sided with Donald Trump and opposed the NDAA on the grounds that it did not include a provision to repeal Section 230.[58]

America First Caucus and MAGA Squad

In April 2021, a faction within the Freedom Caucus, led by Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene, attempted to form a new splinter group called the 'America First Caucus', along with Matt Gaetz. Senior members of the Freedom Caucus reportedly reacted with "fury" to the proposal, with Ken Buck publicly denouncing it.[59] The new caucus was later scrapped.[60]

Later, a faction emerged of Trump loyalists within the Freedom Caucus known as the 'MAGA Squad', which included Gosar, Greene, Gaetz, Madison Cawthorn, Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, Scott Perry and Lauren Boebert. It was "not a formal caucus", but was described as more radical than the mainstream Freedom Caucus.[61][62][63] The group supported primary challenges against incumbent Republicans during the 2022 United States House of Representatives elections.[64]

State Freedom Caucus Network

In December 2021, the Freedom Caucus officially expanded to the state level, establishing the 'State Freedom Caucus Network' in state legislatures to provide legislators with additional resources.[65] The group has state-level caucuses in seven states: Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, South Dakota and Illinois.[66]

Respect for Marriage Act

In July 2022, the caucus split over the Respect for Marriage Act, with chairman Scott Perry (R-PA) joining 46 other Republicans in voting for the bill, while the caucus en bloc opposed it.[67]

2022 House Republican leadership elections

The Freedom Caucus was actively involved in the 2022 House Republican leadership elections, but it was divided on some races.[68] Former Freedom Caucus chair Andy Biggs launched a challenge to Kevin McCarthy's bid to be Speaker of the House of Representatives,[69] though McCarthy won the Republican nomination[70] with the endorsement of other caucus members, such as vice chair Jim Jordan,[71] David Schweikert,[72] and Marjorie Taylor Greene.[73] McCarthy will still need 218 votes from the House floor to be elected speaker on January 3, 2023.[70]

Freedom Caucus member Byron Donalds also ran for House Republican Conference chair, but lost to incumbent Elise Stefanik.[74] Another Freedom Caucus member, Andrew Clyde, ran for House Republican Conference secretary, but lost to Lisa McClain.[75]

Leadership

The current chair of the caucus is Representative Scott Perry from Pennsylvania, with Representative Jim Jordan as the deputy chair.

Chair Term start Term end Tenure
1 Jim Jordan
Jim Jordan official photo, 114th Congress.jpg
February 11, 2015 (2015-02-11) January 3, 2017 (2017-01-03) 1 year, 327 days
2 Mark Meadows
Mark Meadows, Official Portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
January 3, 2017 (2017-01-03)[76] October 1, 2019 (2019-10-01) 2 years, 271 days
3 Andy Biggs
Andy Biggs official portrait.jpg
October 1, 2019 (2019-10-01)[77] January 1, 2022 (2022-01-01) 2 years, 92 days
4 Scott Perry
Scott Perry, official portrait, 116th congress.jpg
January 1, 2022 (2022-01-01) Incumbent[78] 333 days

Membership

Freedom Caucus representation in the 117th United States Congress, known as of February 2021
Freedom Caucus representation in the 117th United States Congress, known as of February 2021

Membership policy

The House Freedom Caucus does not disclose the names of its members and membership is by invitation only.[79][80] The New York Times wrote in October 2015 that the caucus usually meets "in the basement of a local pub rather than at the Capitol".[81] The caucus acts as a bloc, with decisions that are supported by 80 percent made binding on all of its members, which has strengthened its influence among House Republicans.[2]

Historical membership

As the HFC does not publicize a full membership list, the known number of members at the start of each electoral cycle is listed below.

Starting membership in election cycles
Election year Overall seats Republican seats ±
2016
36 / 435
36 / 241
New
2018
37 / 435
37 / 199
+1
2020
46 / 435
46 / 212
+9
2022
44 / 435
44 / 212
–2

Current members

A number of members have identified themselves, or have been identified by others, as belonging to the Freedom Caucus. There are at least 44 caucus members as of May 2022; those members include:

Alabama

Arizona

Colorado

Florida

Georgia

Idaho

Illinois

Louisiana

Maryland

Montana

New Mexico

North Carolina

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

Virginia

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Former members

Congressional districts of Freedom Caucus members of the 114th Congress (former members in light color; as of October 2015)
Congressional districts of Freedom Caucus members of the 114th Congress (former members in light color; as of October 2015)

In the 115th Congress, the group had about 36 members.[79]

See also

Further reading

References

  1. ^ Carl, Jeremy (October 13, 2015). "The Freedom Caucus Is a Rebellion That Could Change the GOP's Future". Archived from the original on December 13, 2018. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Desilver, Drew (October 20, 2015). "House Freedom Caucus: What is it, and who's in it?". Pew Research Center. Retrieved February 7, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Ethier, Beth (January 26, 2015). "House Conservatives Form "Freedom Caucus" as Right-Wing Rebellion Continues". Slate Magazine. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  4. ^ Lauren Fox, Why (almost) everyone hates the House Freedom Caucus, CNN (March 24, 2017): "At first, there were just nine of them, but the group, which is considered the most far-right flank of the Republican conference, grew."
  5. ^ Mark Barrett, Meadows in line to lead House’s most conservative wing, ‘’Asheville Citizen-Times’’ (December 3, 2016): "the House Freedom Caucus, which occupies the furthest-right position on the ideological spectrum in the U.S. House..."
  6. ^ French, Lauren. "9 Republicans launch House Freedom Caucus". Politico. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  7. ^ Ferrechio, Susan (January 26, 2015). "Conservative lawmakers form House Freedom Caucus". Washington Examiner. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  8. ^ Eaton, Sabrina (February 11, 2015). "It's official: Rep. Jim Jordan now chairs the House Freedom Caucus". Cleveland. Archived from the original on February 16, 2019. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  9. ^ The Freedom Caucus has been widely described as right-wing:
  10. ^
  11. ^ Cottle, Michelle (April 7, 2017). "In The Freedom Caucus, Trump Meets His Match". The Atlantic.
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  16. ^ Loiaconi, Stephen (March 24, 2017). "For Freedom Caucus, defying Trump could have consequences". WJLA-TV. Archived from the original on April 4, 2019. Retrieved March 31, 2017. The House Freedom Caucus, a cadre of conservatives, libertarians and others who have shown no hesitation to buck the party leadership, has been heavily critical of the AHCA
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  18. ^ Wong, Scott (May 22, 2018). "Freedom Caucus bruised but unbowed in GOP primary fights". The Hill. Archived from the original on December 11, 2018.
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  43. ^ Eliza Collins, Collapse of Obamacare repeal plan puts Freedom Caucus in complicated spot, USA Today (March 24, 2017): "While the bill faced critics from all factions of the party, no group played more of a role in sinking the legislation than the Freedom Caucus."
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