Zach Persing | firstname.lastname@example.org
Early last month the House Freedom Caucus, a group of approximately 40 conservatives (the Caucus doesn’t publish an official roster) forced House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to drop out of the House Speakership race by supporting other candidates and denying McCarthy the 218 votes necessary to win the election. Almost immediately after McCarthy dropped out the Freedom Caucus received immense criticism from both less conservative Republicans and the mainstream media.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said that the Freedom Caucus was doing “the stuff that goes on in banana republics.” Furthermore, Steve Benen of MSNBC stated that the Freedom Caucus was causing “chaos.”
Despite the near universal criticism of the Freedom Caucus, caucus members should be commended for their fight against McCarthy for one simple reason, the fight against McCarthy was rooted in the principle of democracy.
The primary reason that the Freedom Caucus was criticized for blocking McCarthy is that he was widely viewed as next in line for the Speakership. However, in reality, the notion that someone should be awarded the third most powerful position in American government based on seniority alone is utter lunacy.
The speakership should be decided by a democratic vote, if a majority of the House does not think that a person is fit to serve as speaker then that person should not be able to serve as speaker! Furthermore, the primary reason that members of the Freedom Caucus refused to support McCarthy is that he failed to pledge he would run the House in a democratic manner by returning to regular order.
Under former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) the House abandoned regular order, the process by which bills are drafted and voted on in committees and then move to the floor. Under Boehner, almost all very important legislation went through the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee, also known as the Speaker’s Committee, is controlled by the Speaker and party leadership.
To be clear, this article is not an endorsement of the man who was eventually elected Speaker, Paul D. Ryan (R-WI). I don’t claim to know whether he will be an effective and unifying leader or not.
That being said, I am cautiously optimistic. Ryan has pledged that he will in fact return the House to regular order. Furthermore, Ryan was elected in a truly democratic fashion. There was a considerable amount of debate and negation prior to the vote. We have the Freedom Caucus to thank for that.