When Speaker of the House John Boehner announced last month that he would be leaving the position—and Congress—it threw Washington D.C. for a loop.
And the search for a replacement began immediately, with Boehner ally and California Republican Kevin McCarthy the odds-on favorite to take over.
The Freedom Caucus, however, was not in on it.
The very conservative Freedom Caucus makes up just over 40 members of the House. The exact numbers are not known because they keep the membership secret. But it is enough that, if the bloc sticks together, it serves as an effective veto for the Republican caucus as a whole.
And without their support, there was no path to victory for McCarthy. And so he resigned, leading to chaos as Republicans looked for someone to rally behind for the next Speaker.
Steve Pearce is one of the members of the Freedom Caucus, which did not support McCarthy, and the Albuquerque Journal’s Michael Coleman spoke to him amid the chaos on Capitol Hill.
Pearce told Coleman he was prepared to support Daniel Webster for the Speaker position when McCarthy dropped his bombshell.
“I have nothing against Mr. McCarthy but if he moved up that would guarantee that all of the leadership would be destabilized with people who are brand new in their jobs, and for an organization that is very risky,” Pearce said. “Mr. Webster has been a speaker before …as Speaker of the House in the state of Florida he was able to push the responsibility for decision-making down to the lowest level instead of coming from the top. One of the beefs people have currently is everything comes from the top down.
Pearce told Coleman that Webster is still the choice of the Freedom Caucus.
“But If nobody can get to 218 (votes needed to secure the speakership) we’ll have to sit around the table and start discussing it,” Pearce said.
The Washington Post had more details on how McCarthy lost his chance to take the gavel. The Freedom Caucus pledged that if 80 percent of members supported one candidate, they would vote as a bloc.
From the Post:
But they wanted him to make specific promises. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), the leader of the House Tea Party Caucus, asked McCarthy to publicly oppose efforts by establishment groups — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others — to run radio and TV ads criticizing conservatives who defied their own leaders.
McCarthy would not commit to a public pledge.
This is the same caucus that is calling for a government shutdown if language barring Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding is not included in any funding bill.
Earlier this summer, Pearce signed onto a letter calling for just that.
Of course, not all Freedom Caucus members agree with the tactics. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wisc., left the group over concerns on how it was handling the leadership race.
There is one name that everyone agrees would get enough Republican votes to become Speaker: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. The only problem is that Ryan doesn’t want the job.