The House Freedom Caucus (Feature the Bug Bass Beat Mix)

U.S. Capitol building at dusk on a winter's eve. (Photo credit: Peterson)

Here is a strange proposition: The Trump effect, currently plaguing the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest, is a feature, not a bug.

While the notion of sucking up all the oxygen is certainly evident as Republican candidates struggle for breath, consider for a moment that there is also a Democratic contest afoot. To the other, all we really hear about it is a string of scandal stories about Hillary Clinton, and how many people turn out for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

And, of course, any time we might lead with a joke like, What do Kim Davis and Donald Trump have in common? we might rest assured that our uneasiness is genuine because things really have gotten that far out of hand.

The question of the hour:

Barring a historic meltdown, Republicans will select Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be their nominee for speaker Thursday. But does that mean McCarthy will get 218 votes in the House floor vote on Oct. 29?


Meanwhile, House Democrats aren’t exactly sitting back and watching, but nobody should feel badly for thinking otherwise. There is plenty of intrigue to go around, but the drama in the House of Representatives is exclusively Republican.

To wit:

Conservatives spent the better part of an hourlong panel discussion Wednesday suggesting that even if he’s selected during the conference’s noon meeting Thursday, it doesn’t mean McCarthy is guaranteed to take the speakership.

“The vote that matters is on Oct.29,” Rep. Justin Amash said.

The Michigan Republican, who twice voted against Speaker John A. Boehner on the floor, said conservatives need firm details from speaker candidates on how they would change the House before handing someone the gavel. Amash repeatedly suggested voting against the GOP’s speaker candidate on the floor — even if the nominee won in conference — was justified because the speaker is a “constitutional position, not a party position.”

The House Freedom Caucus is trying to leverage the roughly 40 votes of its members to extract concessions on House procedure. The HFC does not have a candidate of its own in the speaker’s election — it is endorsing Daniel Webster of Florida — and the conservative caucus is starting to develop something resembling a plan.

Idaho Republican Raúl R. Labrador, one of the HFC’s founding members, said Wednesday the caucus is looking for “concrete, specific changes that are made before the vote, not promises of changes in the future.” Those rule concessions, whatever they may be, could end up representing a significant victory for the caucus.

We have yet to see proper right-wing hardcore, but this is pretty rough and tumble stuff; in the end, it is a raw power struggle. While establishment leadership vacillates about rule changes and steering committee representation, the full spectrum of the conservative suicide caucus is in effect. The House Freedom Caucus wants a bunch of stuff, but “conservatives don’t yet have a specific set of proposed changes”, and if they don’t get their way, they will make sure everybody loses. Consider that the problem―

What they want, it seems, is a way to assure spending bills come to the floor earlier to avoid deadline fights and that their amendments get votes — Labrador cited examples of amendments not being made in order by the Rules Committee because leadership said the amendment would be adopted, potentially poisoning the bill on the floor.

Those could be tall asks, but the HFC is using the loose threat of denying McCarthy the gavel to see what they can get.

―is purely internal; this is about how the Republican leadership the Republican caucus doesn’t listen to fails to run the House of Representatives it is somehow elected to oversee. No, really. Think about spending bills. Speaker Boehner had to pull his “Plan B” fiscal cliff bill after a conservative revolt, and immigration reform collapsed in his chamber last year. This isn’t about the Democrats. This isn’t about Nancy Pelosi. This is about House Republicans not listening to their leadership, finding themselves in a pinch, having to move quickly, and now the House Freedom Caucus wants rule changes to prevent House Leadership, it seems, from doing pretty much anything. That is to say, the next time Sen. Ted Cruz lines up a government shutdown by leading a revolt in the House, the Speaker shouldn’t be able to bring a bill to the floor … well, think about it. Stand off, stand off, stand off, out of time, here’s the bill, but no, now we need to stand off, stand off some more.The Seal of Speaker Boehner's House of Representatives

It’s like the joke about how government doesn’t work.

And how Republicans work to prove the thesis.

The House Freedom Caucus may be asking nothing less than the keys to that dysfunctional kingdom on the Hill.


Fuller, Matt. “HFC Looks for Leverage in Speaker’s Race”. 218. Roll Call. 7 October 2015.

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