Members of the newly-formed, staunchly conservative House “Freedom Caucus,” which just announced its nine founding members, are already claiming credit for blocking an immigration bill that had been scheduled for floor action this week.
“The communications were made to the House leadership by our Freedom Caucus last week, and all of the sudden this week you see the bill has been delayed,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), a top immigration hawk who was not named as part of the group but nonetheless has been attending its meetings.
The group is clearly considerably larger than nine, and it includes many outspoken critics of Speaker John Boehner.
Brooks and other members mocked GOP leadership’s explanation that the delay was due to inclement weather. “What about the weather? We’re voting on legislation today and tomorrow,” Brooks said, adding the Freedom Caucus unanimously decided against supporting the bill unless the Senate had first voted on a spending bill that would defund President Obama’s executive amnesty.
The Alabama Republican would not say how many members are participating, but others privately said it was close to 40, giving the group the ability to block many bills from passage if it can stay unified.
However, the group has yet to decide on its bylaws or a leader, and there has been some behind-the-scenes drama about its invite-only membership.
“I wasn’t part of that group,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who recently ran against Boehner in the speaker election, securing three votes, including his own.
Another member who was not named as a member in the announcement but is participating is Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). “I may not have been listed, but I’m in the room,” Gosar said.
The Freedom Caucus began as a splinter group from the Republican Study Committee, which conservatives had come to see as a watered down version that catered to the middle of its large, diverse membership. Lawmakers had expressed particular concern with the new chairman of RSC, Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), who vowed to never criticize GOP leadership upon his election as chairman.
Tuesday, Flores praised the Freedom Caucus.
“I think it’s great to have a complimentary group of conservatives in Congress. Most of them are going to continue being Republican Study Committee members, and I look forward to working with them. There are some cases where small groups can be effective, and there are other cases where large groups can be effective,” Flores said.