As growing prospects of a red wave loom over the Nov. 8 midterm elections, the conservative House Freedom Caucus has sent a message Republican voters have been longing to hear. If the GOP re-takes control of the lower chamber, things must be different in Washington, DC.
The way Congress operates now gives entrenched establishment forces in both parties inordinate control over their factions. In a highly informative 52-page dossier sent out to new Republican candidates on Oct. 20, the caucus ably described how this power apparatus works, and why it needs to be dismantled.
Too Much to Handle Too Soon?
“Washington is broken – as you already know,” the guide states. “You clearly believe that you can make the difference in setting things back on course. We agree. Please know, however, that the U.S. House of Representatives is every bit as dysfunctional as Washington itself.”
The document stresses how overwhelmed new arrivals to Congress feel. They have to set up their offices, hire staffers, find a place to live and try to pinpoint which committees they desire to sit on. This sense of immediate overload works right to the leadership’s advantage, the caucus states.
“The week of November 14, House Republicans return to Washington to prepare for the new 118th Congress,” the document notes. “Party leadership elections will take place. Proposals to amend and approve the rules of the House Republican Conference will be considered. The plan for the Republican Steering Committee (which makes nearly all committee assignments) will be ratified.”
That’s a lot to take in six days after the election. And the entrenched incumbents at the top of the GOP House ladder are fully aware of it.
“There are critical decisions; but the simple truth is that it perfectly suits some if you are unprepared or unaware of their significance,” the caucus guide continues. “Some will urge you to be ‘a team player’ by falling in line with leadership and doing what you’re told. You’ll be warned not to ‘rock the boat’ by raising questions or concerns with leadership’s agenda.”
The House Freedom Caucus Warning
Once new members officially assume office, they may be surprised to discover just how minimal an impact they will be allowed to have on House affairs. The document highlights numerous ways in which individual action by Republican representatives is negated:
- “No Member has been able to offer an amendment in an open process on the House floor in six years.”
- “Committee assignments are based on perceived loyalty to party leadership and whether you agree to meet a fundraising quota. Everything else is secondary.”
- “At best, you’ll have a handful of days to read legislation before voting. Many bills, even massive pieces of legislation, are routinely rushed to the House floor within hours of being released.”
- “Unless you serve on the Appropriations Committee, you’re rarely allowed to impact decisions on spending. Even those on the Committee, however, are frequently sidelined since party leadership often cobbles together massive spending bills in secret at the eleventh hour.”
The disturbing conclusion is that when a GOP candidate won election to the House in recent years, he or she became merely another chit for party leadership. In actual effect, millions of people who voted Republican to send the Swamp a message were merely strengthening the hand of that which they meant to oppose. Due to this control machinery, every Republican vote for a House election seat anywhere in the country from 2015 to 2018 was in essence a vote for former Speaker Paul Ryan.
GOP Renegades Get Nuked
There is another factor to consider as well. The concentrated stranglehold on elected party undertakings greatly explains the vitriolic negative pile-ons pursued against House Republican members who do not silently acquiesce. This is why too-independent mavericks like outgoing Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) get wiped out.
There is plenty for which to criticize the young and immature Cawthorn and some would say he may very well have deserved to have lost his bid for re-election in a GOP primary earlier this year. But the severity of the onslaught against him from within GOP ranks in the months leading up to that May election had all the signs of an unmistakable signal to elected Republicans: If you go rogue on leadership, you will be destroyed.
The non-stop demonization of other out-of-step House Republicans such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) from the GOP side of the aisle largely stems from their refusal to be nothing more than red-painted pawns on a DC Republican chess board. “It does not have to – and should not – be this way,” the House Freedom Caucus guide declares. “But to level the playing field, we need major reforms.”
With Americans across the nation chomping at the bit to give deeply unpopular President Joe Biden a sharp rebuke at the polls, Republicans are well-positioned for that red wave that may sweep them into control of both chambers of Congress. But before fresh-faced GOP newcomers hit Washington ready to stand up to Democrat overreach, they had best make sure they won’t be stripped of all capacity for making a difference by the experienced lifers in a company town who wear elephant pins on their red, white and blue ties instead of donkeys.
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