Freedom Caucus Members Decry 'Fear and Intimidation' of Boehner Era
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) tweeted to his followers that the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was a “victory for the crazies,” referring to the group of Republicans in the House who have joined together under the banner of the Freedom Caucus.
One of the nine House Republicans who formed the group that is either given credit or blamed for what is now a wide-open race to replace Boehner says the Freedom Caucus has no interest in breaking the federal government.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) told his Facebook followers minutes after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) shocked the GOP by bowing out of the race that the Freedom Caucus wants to repair the process that he claimed Boehner has wrecked.
Before the McCarthy surprise, Amash stressed Boehner wasn’t forced out because he was judged to not be conservative enough for the Freedom Caucus. Amash wrote that Boehner simply failed as speaker of the House.
“Speaker John Boehner's announced resignation from Congress marks the inevitable fall of a speakership marred by internal Republican friction, raw partisanship and loss of influence for our great institution. And the next speaker will suffer the same fate unless he or she approaches the job entirely differently.”
Amash accused Boehner’s House leadership team of failing to have anything close to a strategic vision. Instead, the Michigan Republican said, they “governed by crisis with an approach that abandons the regular order of the House.”
“This approach produces constant frustration among representatives in both parties and promotes the partisan finger-pointing that angers Americans at home. Instead of making bipartisan compromises to address long-term issues, Congress constructs desperate, last-minute political deals to obtain the requisite votes simply to clear the immediate impasse.”
Amash stated that is the real nexus of the Freedom Caucus’ inability to work with Boehner’s team — and by implication his hand-chosen successor, McCarthy.
“Significant outcomes are predetermined by a few leaders and their close allies, often with the backing of special interests that help write the bills. House rules, adopted by the entire body on the first day of each Congress, are regularly waived to bypass procedural hurdles,” Amash wrote.
“Votes for passage of legislation are corralled through fear and intimidation.”
Amash also charged that Boehner and his team, which includes Majority Leader McCarthy, perpetuated “a pay-to-play culture” in the House. He wrote that chairmanships and committee assignments are decided solely on the basis of party fundraising or, as it is euphemistically phrased by Boehner’s team, “doing your work across the street.”
He also said relationships within the House GOP caucus often get downright ugly, especially if a Republican dared to oppose Boehner, as Amash did quite often.
“Republicans who vote against the wishes of leadership are punished -- leaders bury our bills in committee and urge PACs not to fund our campaigns. Leadership surrogates verbally attack Republican colleagues and, in some cases, actively support primary challenges against them, as they did against me in 2014.”
Amash is not alone. Another of the nine Republicans who founded the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), posted his support for the Freedom Caucus’ preferred House speaker candidate, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.).
Amash backed Labrador to replace Eric Cantor as House majority leader in June 2014, in opposition to Boehner’s chosen candidate McCarthy.
Like Amash, Labrador claimed their caucus doesn’t want to apply a litmus test of conservatism to any Republican trying to replace Boehner. But Labrador stressed Republicans in the House need to make changes from the top down. Voters, he wrote, are demanding reform.
“It is clear that our constituents will simply not accept a continuation of the status quo, and that the viability of the Republican Party depends on whether we start listening to our voters and fighting to keep our promises,” Labrador wrote.
Amash closed his Facebook post by writing, “We cannot have more of the same. It's time to choose a speaker who will restore respect and order to the House so that we can once again govern as the Constitution intends.”
The idea that Amash and the Freedom Caucus are only altruistically interested in improving the performance of the House, the lot of the GOP and as a result the condition of the American people drew a sarcastic harrumph from Rep. King on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show Oct. 9.
“They show no sense of responsibility,” King told host Joe Scarborough, referring to the Freedom Caucus.
As for another complaint raised by Amash, that the Freedom Caucus should be brought off the back bench and given a place a prominence in House GOP discussions, King said, “This isn’t a high school debating society.”
King also told Scarborough the person the House needs for its next speaker is “someone who can bang heads and break legs.”
Maybe King is the guy to start playing whack-a-mole with the skulls of those who fail to acquiesce to the will of the leadership quickly enough.
If so, could Amash and Labrador work with Rep. Peter King, speaker of the House?
King, who is seen as a centrist, must be interested. His website features a link to an article published by Newsday, “Will Pete King sit on the iron throne?”
But how could King, a centrist Republican, work with Amash, Labrador and the rest of the “crazies”?
The Newsday article points out King has a long and storied career in the House. The Boehner ally has good relationships with quite a few Democrats, as well as Republicans.
His friends across the aisle would make all the difference in the House. They would make it much easier for a centrist, like King, to collect the 218 votes needed to replace Boehner.
At the same time, those Democrats would remove the power of the Freedom Caucus to block legislation in the House.
What would Amash and Labrador do then?