Two weeks ago I castigated House conservatives for failing to present a real alternative to reelecting their mediocre speaker, John Boehner. That week, following the vote that saw Boehner retain his speakership on the first ballot, Congressman Mick Mulvaney issued a letter to his constituents decrying the attempt to beat something (Boehner) with nothing (halfhearted candidacies by Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Ted Yoho and a slightly-more-successful attempt by moderate Congressman Daniel Webster).
Mulvaney recalled the insurgent run for Boehner’s speakership two years ago, by Congressman Raul Labrador, which fell apart when many of the members who’d promised to support Labrador fell off his bandwagon at the last moment. To repeat that song and dance again, Mulvaney groused, would be foolish — and he wasn’t going to put himself in a position to be punished by the leadership in pursuit of a hopeless challenge.
All that was fine, I said, but if Mulvaney and those House conservatives like him were serious about replacing Boehner, then where was the effort to set the groundwork for a real challenge?
As it happens, there was in fact such an effort afoot, and on Monday the House Freedom Caucus made its public debut. Mulvaney is one of the nine founding members; others include Labrador and Congressmen Jim Jordan, Ron DeSantis, John Fleming, Justin Amash, Scott Garrett, Matt Salmon, and Mark Meadows.
“The House Freedom Caucus gives a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them,” reads the group’s mission statement. “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.”
All of which sounds nice, but what it actually means is the HFC aims to replace the Republican Study Committee, which for decades has been considered the gold standard for conservative policy in the House, but which has been decried recently as a tool of the leadership.
The HFC’s goal is to recruit another thirty or so members. If it can add more than twenty, and then actually command those votes in a bloc, it will serve as a stumbling block for the leadership’s ability to control a majority of the Republican caucus. That’s a serious problem for Boehner and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise — who will either have to work with the HFC’s blessing in order to pass anything, or reach across the aisle and replace HFC votes with those of Democrats. The latter choice will only fuel dissatisfaction with Boehner among conservatives and increase calls to replace him at the end of the new Congress in just under two years.
A bit of karmic irony in the foundation of the HFC yesterday comes from Mulvaney’s membership. After all, Mulvaney was a candidate to head the RSC in this Congress, but he lost the race for that job to Congressman Bill Flores, due in large part to Scalise’s efforts in whipping the vote for the latter. So now Mulvaney is joining with former RSC chairman Jordan in founding a competing organization that will serve to make life difficult for Scalise, another RSC chairman who has been accused of tying that organization too closely to Boehner.
Much of this is inside baseball. But the fact is, there is a deep-seated perception among conservatives that the current leadership won’t fight the Left with sufficient vigor, and that it simply lacks the tactical muscle to seize the Washington agenda. That perception is now becoming actionable — which, frankly, has been too long in coming. The effect will be to either reinforce Boehner’s image as an amiable squish of little use to the conservative movement, or to redeem him.
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That’s right, the Grinch (Joe Biden) is coming for your pocketbooks this Christmas season with record inflation. Just to recap, here is a list of items that have gone up during his reign.
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