House Freedom Caucus members are preparing to use their anticipated powers in the Republican conference to demand changes to congressional rules amid projections that Republicans will take the House majority by a razor-thin margin.
Multiple caucus members, led by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), were joined by other GOP members and conservative policy leaders Monday at FreedomWorks’ headquarters to run through rules change proposals as the Freedom Caucus readies to wield more control in Congress.
“The current autocratic leadership-driven process robs us and, more importantly, our constituents of having the ability to participate meaningfully in the legislative process,” Biggs said, accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of having used House rules “to further centralize power in the hands of leadership.”
Biggs lambasted Pelosi and House Democrats, who have had majority power for the past four years, for approving rules and procedural changes that gave Pelosi “same-day authority” to pass legislation, allowed Democrats to strip Republicans of committee assignments, permitted proxy voting and “virtual participation” in hearings and markups, and installed magnetometers outside the House floor.
Conservative Partnership Institute President Ed Corrigan, who was also present at the event, observed that current congressional rules and procedures favor “the swamp.”
Congress might be broken for the members, but it actually works very well for the swamp. It’s a well-oiled machine that produces whatever the swamp desires and treats rank-and-file members like sheep.
In a sense, we have three political parties in the House: the Democrats, the Republicans, and the Freedom Caucus. More than any time in history, the HFC [House Freedom Caucus] has extraordinary power to negotiate a leadership that empowers all members, especially conservatives, and restores the deliberative House that existed for 200 years.
Among his recommendations, Corrigan advised Freedom Caucus members to disregard the “shadowy Steering Committee,” a panel within each party’s conference that chooses which members chair and sit on various committees. He suggested the caucus members instead negotiate directly with the speaker to demand its members have ample representation on committees.
Corrigan also urged that House rules be changed to reinstate a “vacate the chair” motion. The motion was made popular by former Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows, who used the little-known rule in 2015 against then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), which contributed to Boehner resigning later that year.
Meadows, who went on to serve as former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, was also present at the event Monday to impart rules advice.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), an anti-establishment firebrand who is not in the Freedom Caucus, condemned the current House rules structure as one that allows congress members to get away with casting bad votes.
“The broken rules of the House of Representatives are not a bug of the system. They are a feature of the system,” Gaetz said. “We have built something that is purposefully mystified so that corrupt, bad decisions do not get exposed and so that members of Congress aren’t held accountable when they vote for bad things.”
Gaetz said rules amendments he plans to offer include a lifetime ban on congress members becoming lobbyists, a ban on congress members trading individual stocks, and a “single-subject” rule when voting on massive legislation.
“I was incensed as a freshman when I had to vote on the ‘farm bill’ and whether or not to authorize war in Yemen in the same vote,” Gaetz said, noting he already has or expects Democrat support for his amendment proposals.
Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), who was not present at the event, thoroughly detailed numerous changes the Freedom Caucus plans to propose in a lengthy document crafted in October for incoming members.
Republicans will hash out their conference rules Wednesday as well as amendments to House rules that they plan to bring to the floor for a full vote in January.
Write to Ashley Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @asholiver.