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The Freedom Caucus booting Marjorie Taylor Greene looks worse for them than it does for her

Georgia Republican wants to enact her right-wing agenda. The Freedom Caucus wants to complain

Eric Garcia
Friday 07 July 2023 19:17 BST
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(Getty Images)

When friends of The Independent’s Inside Washington newsletter Jordain Carney and Olivia Beavers over at Politico scooped that Rep Andy Harris (R-MD) said the hard-right House Freedom Caucus had booted out Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene, my mind went back to the nascent days of this rambunctious group of conservatives.

Back in 2015, they had just claimed the scalp of House Speaker John Boehner and were making their demands known to Paul Ryan before they would vote to give him the gavel. But some Republicans weren’t impressed, including one House GOP chief of staff who said: “These guys would rather sit around Tortilla Coast eating their boogers than govern. No matter who comes up, they don’t care, it’s totally insane,” in reference to the Tex-Mex restaurant on Capitol Hill where the Freedom Caucus used to meet.

Ms Greene’s trash-talking members of the Freedom Caucus might have sealed her fate with the bomb-throwers – Mr Harris said her calling Rep Lauren Boebert (R-CO) a “little bitch” tickled many in and out of the Beltway. But the real divide is much deeper and shows how in the end, Ms Greene could be more effective at enacting a conservative agenda while the Freedom Caucus would prefer to simply complain and remain ideologically pure.

The Freedom Caucus has largely dined out on their bringing Mr Boehner to his knees. In addition, many of their founding members rose through the ranks to either join the Trump administration or become high-ranking Republicans in their own right.

Mark Meadows, who tried to stage the first failed coup against Mr Boehner before he got on his knees and begged for forgiveness, became Donald Trump’s final White House chief of staff. Mick Mulvaney, another founding member of the caucus, served as Mr Trump’s interim chief of staff and budget director, while Jim Jordan is now House Judiciary Chairman and such a close ally of Kevin McCarthy that he made arguments to conservatives against making him speaker and told people to get behind Mr McCarthy.

But in terms of actually being able to effect change, they largely haven’t done much except kick and scream. Government spending and budget deficits ballooned during Mr Trump’s presidency and Obamacare remains the law of the land. More recently, despite going 15 rounds with Mr McCarthy, he ultimately won the speakership and raised the debt limit over their objections.

A telltale sign of the Freedom Caucus’s impotence at this moment is that they got Mr McCarthy to agree to allow for a single member to file a motion to vacate the chair and none of them have worked up the guts to file a motion and have instead reverted to temper tantrums on the floor. In a sense, their decision to exile Ms Greene might be them signaling that they can still police themselves and punish enemies while not actually going to war with House leadership.

Conversely, while some may be surprised that Ms Greene backed Mr McCarthy, she always explained her rationale for this: during the buildup to the speaker fight, she said Republicans needed subpoena power to investigate President Joe Biden and a split field would allow Democrats to pick off some Republicans. Similarly, Ms Greene told me last month that she swallowed what she called the “s*** sandwich” of the debt limit bill so Mr McCarthy would put a vote on impeaching Mr Biden and her bill restricting gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

Ms Greene did not cozy up to the establishment and moderate either in tone or policy the way that some Republican hellraisers do when they want to achieve more power. Rather, she has always indicated her closeness to leadership is a means to an end and is more than willing to bite Mr McCarthy.

Furthermore, being booted from the Freedom Caucus will likely not hurt her among grassroots voters within the GOP. She remains a favorite of Mr Trump who regularly rallies with him and still is a darling of the far-right. Conversely, the Freedom Caucus now may lose a direct line of communication to Mr McCarthy, who is all the more likely to ignore their complaints after they punished his ally.

In turn, the House Freedom Caucus can continue to do what they’ve always succeeded in spades: complaining about Republican legislation without any influence. Incidentally, Tortilla Coast has now closed, which means Mr Harris and his friends won’t even get some chips and queso with those boogers.

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