Freedom Caucus Posts Rotating Guard To Block Sneaky Leadership Moves

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Apr 19, 2024 - 05:45 PM

In a sign of growing discord among House Republicans, members of the Freedom Caucus are taking turns monitoring the House floor to prevent the GOP leadership from using sneaky procedural tactics to sap the power of increasingly rebellious conservatives.  

Specifically, they're wary that party leaders and their allies will, without prior announcement, bring measures to the floor and seek their passage via "unanimous consent." With that approach, the presiding officer simply states, "If there is no objection, the motion will be adopted." After a pause to allow for objections, the officer declares, "Since there is no objection, the motion is adopted."  

That's where the Freedom Caucus's Floor Action Response Team (yes, "FART") comes in. With their round-the-legislative-clock presence, they always have a member positioned to object to unanimous consent motions, forcing proposals to go through a more arduous procedure. 

House conservatives both inside and outside the Freedom Caucus are increasingly irate over Speaker Mike Johnson's actions, from pushing foreign aid for Ukraine, allowing omnibus spending bills that kick the fiscal can down the road, and personally casting the tie-breaking vote against adding a warrant requirement to the extension Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. All the while, he's pushed border security to the back burner. 

The Freedom Caucus and its allies are on particular alert for moves that would reverse concessions made by Johnson's predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, as part of his negotiations with conservatives pursuant to ascending to the speakership. For example, establishment Republicans could try to

  • Remove three conservatives from the powerful Rules Committee, which exerts a variety of controls over the flow of legislation through the House, and is therefore in position to expedite or thwart the progress of a bill. The targeted conservatives are Thomas Massie (KY), Chip Roy (TX) and Ralph Norman (SC), Politico reports.   
  • Raise the required number of members who must back a motion to oust the speaker before it can be put to a vote. Today, it only requires one. Last month, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene filed such a "motion to vacate the chair."  On Tuesday, Massie announced he would co-sponsor the motion, telling Johnson to his face, "You're not going to be speaker much longer."  

After a tense meeting with Johnson, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who introduced the successful motion to oust McCarthy, issued a public warning against changing the rules. “Talking about changing the threshold to the motion to vacate is likely to induce the motion to vacate,” he told reporters. 

Greene issued her own admonition: "Mike Johnson owes our entire conference a meeting. And if he wants to change the motion to vacate he needs to come before the Republican Conference that elected him and tell us of his intentions and tell us what this rule change … is going to be.”

Johnson has been deflecting questions about whether he was contemplating such a move, both with media and with Gaetz and others. When Gaetz was asked on Thursday if he would back a motion to vacate, he hinted that he was moving in that direction, coyly saying, "You know I woke up today and I didn't." At the same time, he said Johnson's ouster would be "sub-optimal," and that he'd prefer to see Johnson come around and "govern in accordance with the commitments we made."  

Gaetz marveled at Johnson's rapid conversion to establishment puppet once the gavel was in his hand:

"When we voted for Mike Johnson for speaker, he was fresh off of a vote against Ukraine aid, he was publicly advocating for a warrant requirement on FISA, and the central thesis of his campaign for speaker was single-subject spending bills...[Now] look where we are."