Blowup: Will House Freedom Caucus Purge 'Impure' Margie Greene?
The latest blow-up in the House Freedom Caucus, pitting Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene against Rep. Lauren Boebert in battle for the title of wingnuttiest of them all, is history repeating itself. Since the gang got together after the 2014 midterm blow-out that gave Republicans a big majority during Obama’s second term, the caucus has spent at least as much time on purity tests within its own ranks as it has blowing up everything else.
The group is currently squabbling over whether or not to have a purge, who gets credit for trying to impeach President Joe Biden, if or when they’re going to try to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and whether or not founding member Rep. Jim Jordan has been co-opted and can be trusted. It’s the old story of the gang that just can’t say “yes.”
They’ve arguably got the most power they’ve ever had since they put McCarthy in the speaker’s chair. They have high-profile seats, and sometimes control, over key committees. They’ve shown their ability to shut the House down and bend McCarthy to their will, but they just can’t stop turning on each other.
The Boebert-Greene kerfuffle is par for the course. Boebert is exploiting the fact that many of her colleagues don’t trust Greene since Greene cozied up to McCarthy. In fact, when they’re talking purges—and “at least two hardliners” are, according to Politico—Greene is at the top of the list, along with unnamed others who are “too aligned with GOP leaders and too outwardly critical of the group when it splits on certain issues.”
The current chair of the group, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, says he’s refused the purge request. That’s not going to stop the infighting. There are too many fracture points, as South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman was happy to explain. “The speaker’s race, there was some difference in opinion. The debt ceiling, there were differences of opinion. And we had to get 80 percent on any major issue that we take positions on,” he told Politico. “On some big issues, we have not been able to get there … We’re at a critical point right now.” Yes, they’re still fighting with each other over the speaker’s race and the debt ceiling deal.
Some of them are also looking sideways at Rep. Jim Jordan, one of the group’s founders. He was the choice of some of the members for speaker, but he was too focused on getting the powerful Judiciary Committee chair to consider it. He now has the power to hold all the hearings he wants on all the made-up issues he cares about and spend all his time yelling for the cameras, seemingly his goal in life. That’s causing “some conservative grumbling behind closed doors about his hand-in-glove work with McCarthy.”
It’s a good thing for the country that the extreme far-right in the House spend so much time fighting each other and leadership. They work so hard to be anti-establishment, they can’t see when they’re winning.
Remember the “grand bargain” of 2011, when Republicans were oh-so close to getting President Barack Obama to agree to cuts to Social Security and Medicare? The hardliners—the members who would come together in a few years to become the Freedom Caucus—balked, and wouldn’t let it happen because it came with some tax increases on the rich. The decades-long GOP goal of undermining Social Security and Medicare went down the drain. And with it, the speakership of John Boehner.
And then, in 2017, Republicans were on the brink of repealing the Affordable Care Act, the hated bill that gave Republicans such a big majority in 2014 and helped spawn the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus was so distrustful of then-Speaker Paul Ryan that they torpedoed the plan. Paul Ryan decided to retire rather than have to keep dealing with this group of misfits.
If the Freedom Caucus and fellow hardliners couldn’t be relied upon to trip over their own feet, Social Security and Medicare would be failing and Obamacare repealed. That’s the upside of their existence. That and the entertainment value of watching them take down one Republican speaker after another.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.