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VA Lawmakers & the Freedom Caucus Buck GOP Leaders

Associated Press

Two Virginia Republican in Congress are members of a new group called the Freedom Caucus. The conservative hardliners are proving to be thorns in the sides of Republican Party leaders in Washington.

Dave Brat shocked the political world when he ousted Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary contest. When Cantor left Washington the former professor was swept into office and given two days to study a 1700 page spending bill…

“So in my first couple weeks here, I’m dealing with the biggest issues. And then I had the Speaker vote and you know just huge huge votes. I thought it would die down after that but it doesn’t.”

Brat was among twenty five Republicans to oppose keeping John Boehner as the Speaker of the House - a vote that didn’t sit well with party leaders but he doesn’t seem to care.

"Personally there’s no issue. It’s just a matter of the votes and they put us in some bad spots.”

Brat and the members of the Freedom Caucus have been bucking party leaders this summer and putting a wrench in their spokes whenever possible. He says GOP leaders are in cahoots with Democratic leaders too often.

“Lately they’ve been going to Democrats to pass major bills. So they’ve got 50 votes over in the conservative, Freedom Caucus and extended people in that corner. They can come over and pass anything they want but instead of going there, they go over to the center and get Democrat votes. And so then everybody at home scratches their head and rightly wants to know what’s wrong with Republicans voting for conservative legislation? What’s going on? And so that’s… people are starting to figure out the process.”

Credit AP Photo/Scott Applewhite
Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va

Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith is also a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus. He too says there’s no personal animosity towards Speaker Boehner and other GOP leaders.

“Well certainly you know you never like to have a fight with other people but as I have explained to any number of folks, I’m not enemies with any of the leadership. But I do think we can do a better job following the rules, making the rules make sense, and letting everybody feel like they’ve got a fair chance at the process.”

Griffith is a wonk. He likes to study parliamentarian procedures and knows the ins and outs of arcane House rules. Griffith says party leaders are too quick to change the rules of debate to limit voices of opposition within their own party.

“There’s always a separate rule changing the rules. Why do we even have the House rules? My answer to that is we should take some bills, let the Leadership experiment, take a bill that’s not even that controversial and let us do the process as it’s designed in the rules and use the process the way it’s supposed to be. Instead they’ve got this fear that something bad will happen and they don’t follow the rules.”

The Freedom Caucus is making other Republicans a little uneasy. Moderate Virginia Republican Scott Rigell says he doesn’t have an opinion on the group yet though.

“I think that the jury is really out is to whether they’re truly helping us advance good legislation that can help our country.”

For Brat and the other Freedom Caucus members, they say they were sent to Washington to shake things up.

“Yeah I mean the temptation up here is just to keep doing what you’ve been doing. And so you know the status quo up here if you can get enough money and keep a safe seat at home the status quo is sometimes easier than hey what’s this really going to do to the next generation?” 

When Congress returns from its August recess there some big deadlines looming, like funding the government, lifting the debt ceiling and fixing the nation’s highway system, just to name a few. The Freedom Caucus is hoping the party moves right and confronts President Obama, which could lead to a prolonged government shutdown and embarrassment for Republican Party leaders who want to show they can govern. 

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