Upset that there might soon be an end to the debt ceiling hostage-taking they’d been cheerleading for months, House Freedom Caucus members tried to torpedo the compromise bill’s passage in the House last week. When it became clear that their plot wouldn’t work — Democrats could get the bill through the House without the right-wing votes — they went for McCarthy’s jugular: his speakership.
Yet now that the dust has settled, those threats seem to largely have just been talk.
Ever since the Freedom Caucus got a taste in January of the leverage their hard-right faction enjoys over House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), members have been on the hunt for any and all opportunities to not just flex their power as the most rebellious members of the House majority, but to also loudly message to their constituents that they are, in fact, the most conservative of them all. One of the key concessions they won from McCarthy in January was the ability of a single member to, at any time, call for a redo of the speaker election, potentially punting McCarthy from the job if they could muster enough votes for a replacement. That possibility has loomed over the Republican House majority for the last few months.
When Biden and McCarthy last month announced a compromise deal on the debt ceiling, it became clear that the far-right’s game of chicken with the White House and the national economy might soon come to an end — and with less lib-owing than they had hoped to see. Freedom Caucus members swiftly held a press conference and hopped on Fox News to let the American people know that they were opposed to the McCarthy-Biden deal because it didn’t slash entitlements hard enough, or deliver on a number of demands on their ever-growing list.
Hardliners like Reps. Dan Bishop (R-NC) and Ken Buck (R-CO) signaled they might go nuclear and force a vote to remove McCarthy as speaker. Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and others floated concerns about McCarthy’s ability to lead the party and also suggested it might be time for a shakeup. Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA) and Chip Roy (R-TX) stopped short of endorsing the plan, but didn’t rule it out either.
But as has been the case time and again with these hardliners, the things they are saying publicly don’t always carry over into private discussions among members.
The Freedom Caucus met for the first time Monday night since the debt ceiling deal passed the House and there was no discussion of the effort to oust McCarthy, the Hill reported. Buck reportedly left the meeting early and Bishop, the first and loudest to push for McCarthy’s removal, did not attend the gathering at all. Per the Hill:
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said that while Buck is telling the press that there should be discussion, he had not said that to members.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said that he did not express any formal discussions about a motion to vacate — yet. Other members expressed that there was not any broad consensus about a motion to vacate.
“It certainly doesn’t seem like a majority at two. We respect their opinions,” Perry said of Bishop and Buck before the meeting. “We consider every viewpoint and we try and do our diligence and consideration of every facet of what a member might be thinking.”
Biggs, for his part, has mostly stuck to his talking points from last week, focusing less on McCarthy’s speakership and more on propelling some sort of conspiracy theory about McCarthy being in cahoots with deep state Democrats.
“I’m still focused right now on this new coalition he seems to have formed and how long it will last,” he told the Hill.