How McCarthy Speaker Deals Will Cause ‘Cannibalistic Fights Between Extremists’ | Kevin McCarthy

TDeals struck between new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and nearly 20 members of the far-right Freedom Caucus are already emboldening the more conservative figures in the GOP with definite steps to give the caucus considerable power in the coming months.

In order to secure the presidency, McCarthy was forced into a humiliating series of defeats before his deals and concessions finally offered enough to bring rebel members of the Freedom Caucus on board.

Now, in McCarthy’s early days as speaker, the Freedom Caucus, of about 40 members, has already scored a lot. Several caucus members won top seats on rules and appropriations panels, played a key role in creating a new panel to initiate a comprehensive investigation of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and other agencies that Conservatives argue are “set up” against them, and stand to benefit from the destruction of the Chamber’s ethical oversight.

Many Freedom Caucus members have close ties to Donald Trump, whose role in finally sealing the deal to give McCarthy the presidency appears to have helped garner some votes.

Craig Snyder, former chief of staff to former Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said Freedom Caucus members are “bomb-throwing nihilists who are trying to bring down the institution without regard for consequences.

“Trump helped fuel this Frankenstein monster. It’s not a battle between the extremes and the establishment, because there is no real establishment anymore. It’s a cannibalistic fight between extremists… It’s all about promoting your personal brands.”

Matt Gaetz, left, and Scott Perry, right, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and other members listen to Steve Scalise, the Republican leader of the House, during the second day of the speaker's vote, Jan. 4.
Matt Gaetz, left, and Scott Perry, right, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and other members listen to Steve Scalise, the Republican leader of the House, during the second day of the speaker’s vote, Jan. 4. Photography: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The Freedom Caucus was launched in 2015 by Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows when he was in the House. It has evolved into a more extreme version of the right-wing small government Tea Party that emerged during the Obama administration opposing Obamacare, critics say.

During Trump’s presidency, several of the Caucus’s most combative figures, including its current chair, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, QAnon sympathizer Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Jordan, were close allies of Trump as he sought to reverse his 2020 defeat.

“They don’t compromise very well. They take tough stands and are doctrinaire. The Freedom Caucus has more or less become Trump’s most loyal infantry,” said former Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

Dent added: “It is impressive that individuals who humiliated the new speaker by withholding their votes for nearly 15 rounds have been rewarded with seats on powerful committees.”

Jordan’s brand of confrontation was palpable when the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee announced an extensive investigation by a newly created subcommittee he will lead into the alleged “weaponizing” of the Justice Department, FBI and other agencies against conservatives. .

Significantly, the subcommittee is expected to have resources similar to those of the House select committee that investigated the January 6 insurrection, a coin that Freedom Caucus hardliners have demanded as a reward for voting for McCarthy, whose Jordan campaign in an about-face has supported since the beginning.

The panel’s broad mandate, which in another concession to the holdout gives the panel power to review “ongoing criminal investigations,” immediately drew sharp criticism from some former justice department officials and others.

Critics say the subcommittee’s real agenda is to provide a prominent avenue to defend Trump from the Justice Department investigation he faces in his coup bid to stay in power and rally the Republican base, under the guise of defending conservatives from alleged improper government targets.

“It’s essentially an effort to disrupt the legitimate work of law enforcement and the Department of Justice to ensure accountability for Trump’s effort to overthrow the 2020 election,” said Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general during the Trump administration. George HW Bush.

Michael Bromwich, former Inspector General of the DoJ, said: “Jim Jordan and his Freedom Caucus allies now have an institutional vehicle to spread their baseless conspiracy theories and attacks on the FBI, DoJ and intelligence agencies. They will make a lot of noise, demonize good public servants, and mislead millions of Americans.”

Marjorie Taylor Green speaks at a House Freedom Caucus press conference in September 2022.
Marjorie Taylor Green speaks at a House Freedom Caucus press conference in September 2022. Photography: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Similarly, Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, a key Democrat on the House Jan. 6 committee, told the Guardian: “This is a riot protection committee. These members have a vested interest in preventing criminal investigations into what happened on January 6th and protecting themselves from further consequences.”

To be sure, Jordan, Perry and other top members of the Freedom Caucus supported Trump in many ways as he plotted ways to prevent Biden from taking office, echoing some of his false accusations and conspiracies about voter fraud in 2020.

Days before Christmas 2020, Trump met at the White House with about 10 members of the Freedom Caucus – including Jordan, Perry, Greene, Harris, Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar – where they talked about how his defeat in the 2020 election could be reversed.

Perry, whose cell phone was seized last summer by federal agents and then returned, has drawn further scrutiny since publicly saying he “forced” Trump by presenting him in late 2020 to Jeffrey Clark, head of the justice department’s civil division, as a useful ally in the DoJ, as Trump urged department leaders to support his bogus accusations of mass voting in 2020.

Clark was referred last year to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution by the House panel on Jan. 6, following revelations about his meetings with Trump to discuss schemes to block Biden from office, including an aborted plan to elevate Clark to replace Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney. general, to help promote unsubstantiated allegations of major voter fraud in key states that Trump lost.

In a related trail, three caucus members, Jordan, Perry and Biggs, as well as McCarthy, were all referred for ethics investigation by the Jan. 6 panel because they blocked the committee’s requests and subpoenas for testimony and documents.

The trio of caucus members could well benefit from another early move by McCarthy when he pushed for a controversial change that revamped the House ethics process, which effectively reduces the number of Democrats making recommendations on reviewing members for conduct. inappropriate, a move that quickly spurred criticism from Democrats and watchdog groups.

Craig Holman, a veteran ethics watchdog for the liberal group Public Citizen, said: “The emasculation of the ethics process was very selfish for McCarthy and some members of the Freedom Caucus who were facing public investigations by the OCE for refusing to comply with legal requirements. subpoenas of the committee of January 6th”.

Others agree.

“The attack on the congressional ethics process is part of an effort to give themselves and participants in the insurrection effective impunity and immunity,” said Raskin.

On another front that hints at the Freedom Caucus’ growing clout, the House, in a strictly partisan vote, passed a measure last Monday to withdraw $80 billion from the IRS that the Biden administration helped pass last year with the goal of from prosecuting tax fraud and bolstering the notorious understaffed agency by hiring 87,000 new employees.

Jim Jordan, right, and Mark Meadows, who launched the Freedom Caucus, on Capitol Hill in October 2019.
Jim Jordan, right, and Mark Meadows, who launched the Freedom Caucus, on Capitol Hill in October 2019. Photography: Tasos Katopodis/EPA

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that rescinding the $80 billion IRS would increase the deficit by $114 billion through 2032.

While the House measure has little chance of passing the Senate and Biden will not sign such a bill, it signaled how McCarthy and his allies moved quickly to go after the IRS, an agency that conservatives have long accused of being biased against them.

Marc Owens, former head of the IRS’s division of tax-exempt organizations, told the Guardian: “Instead of pushing for cuts to restrict the agency that actually funds the government, the Freedom Caucus an inspired crusade can help citizens more by lobbying for adequate agency funding to go after tax fraud and sketchy nonprofits, rather than protecting scammers by withdrawing tax funding.

Taken together, the Freedom Caucus’ influence with McCarthy will likely continue to grow and create chaos.

Former Republican Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia said the Freedom Caucus is able to “hit above its weight because there’s a slim majority… McCarthy landed the plane. But these guys [in the Freedom Caucus] were leading him.”

This outsized influence is troubling for analysts and liberals alike, as battles loom over major issues like raising the debt ceiling, where Freedom Caucus members are likely to demand major spending cuts for their votes.

“The Freedom Caucus is a more extreme version of what the Republican Party used to stand for – low taxes, a small state, deregulation,” said Princeton sociologist Kim L Scheppele. “But they will take these ideas to the extreme – withdrawing funding from the IRS and shutting down the government.”

Raskin also noted that the “basic credo of the Freedom Caucus is that they will run everything authoritatively while they are in charge and make public progress impossible when they are not running things.”

Looking ahead, Public Citizen’s Holman warned: “Expect Congressional dysfunction and chaos over the next two years. McCarthy has ceded much of his leadership role to the Freedom Caucus, a group of right-wing Republicans whose agenda is to shut down the government if they don’t get their way.”

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