GOP frustration builds with Freedom Caucus floor tactics
Some GOP lawmakers are getting frustrated with the hard-line tactics of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Members of the group have forced recorded votes on normally noncontroversial bills on the suspension calendar, forcing lawmakers to hang around the chamber for hours to get their votes in rather than conduct other business.
It led to a confrontation on Tuesday night during a 2 1/2-hour vote series on 13 separate measures between Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, and Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the chairman of the Freedom Caucus.
Republicans gave different accounts of just how heated a discussion took place.
One source familiar with the situation said Rogers, with a raised voice, said that there will be consequences or repercussions for members of the Freedom Caucus if the delaying tactics continue. A GOP member on the floor at the time of the exchange confirmed that version of events.
Rogers, however, told The Hill that he didn’t make any threats and insisted that the conversation was not heated on his part.
He said that he told the Freedom Caucus members: “I’m just telling y’all, just giving you a heads up, you’re getting a lot of ill will around here. This stuff will come back to you. You just can’t do this to people and think that they’re not going to remember it.”
“I just was being, you know, a senior member trying to help members understand, what goes around comes around in this place,” Rogers said.
Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who is not in the Freedom Caucus, were also present for the exchange.
Bills and resolutions considered under suspension of the rules have historically passed by voice vote, often with few members in the House chamber. They account for the majority of bills passed in modern Congresses. But Freedom Caucus members last year started demanding recorded votes for those bills, drastically changing the pace of floor action.
Perry and Roy in a joint interview argued that most all bills deserve a recorded vote, that it gives more time for members to review the legislation and that leadership often sneaks through controversial bills as suspension bills. Members should not be considered as on record supporting a bill that passed by voice vote if they did not get a chance to vote on it, they say.
“What ought to happen in this body, irrespective of what we’re doing at any particular moment, is we ought to have a consensus on a fair way to move bills through appropriately, where we start with the default position of voting, and you’re only moving something by voice or consent when there’s universal agreement that is unobjectionable,” Roy said.
Freedom Caucus members have also argued that the tactic helps slow down and delay Democrats’ agenda.
The suspension bills need support from two-thirds of the House to pass, and because of the requests for recorded votes, some of the measures have failed due to GOP opposition.
A bill to require data reporting about small-business loans to LGBTQ-owned businesses in order to prohibit discrimination, as well as a bill to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide access to contraceptives without co-pays, failed under suspension last year but later passed after going through the normal rules process. Another measure to allow the District of Columbia to increase pay for its chief financial officer also failed under suspension.
But those bills are the exception, and many of the recorded votes result in a handful of “nays.” Freedom Caucus members frequently vote in favor of the bills, and some get unanimous support.
Recent measures considered under suspension of the rules that passed with overwhelming support included bills requiring training for VA employees on reporting wrongdoing and directing the Treasury secretary to secure debt relief for Ukraine. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the only vote against a resolution calling on leaders to condemn antisemitism on Wednesday.
But some of the requests prompt public pushback.
Just before the House was set to vote on five bills to name post offices last Thursday, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) asked that the ordering for the “yeas” and “nays” on five Post Office naming bills be vacated since all of the names were after members of the military and “war heroes,” as he said. Members on both sides of the aisle cheered.
Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) objected, drawing boos, and members stayed for another 45 minutes to vote on the bills.
Some Republican members walking into votes before a session that ended just before 11 p.m. Wednesday night openly grumbled about being there so late for noncontroversial bills.
Biggs, who was Perry’s predecessor as Freedom Caucus chairman, said on Gaetz’s podcast on Wednesday that a Republican who was “in his face” on the House floor Tuesday night said that he had better things to be doing than voting.
“And I said, “Well, like what?’ He said, ‘Well, you know, I can’t do my social media and I can’t do media hits,’” Biggs said.
The long vote sessions in the evening can also keep members from fundraisers, meetings with constituents and interest groups, and other activities.
Gaetz mused on his podcast this week that the recent floor confrontations are an indication of a fight brewing between the Freedom Caucus and GOP leadership. Perry downplayed that, though.
“They’ve been somewhat agnostic about it,” Perry said of GOP leadership. “They know that some people are for it, some people don’t like it.”
But the dynamic could preview pressure tactics that the hard-line conservative caucus shifts onto its own party leaders next year.
Perry didn’t rule out calling for voice votes on suspension bills next year if Republicans win the majority and leadership continues the practice of passing suspension bills by voice vote.
“We hope this is not an issue, because we’re hoping that we can get to some point of fairness, now, that becomes the standard,” Perry said.
Freedom Caucus members also argued that Democrats control the House schedule and how long it takes to vote. Pandemic-era proxy voting, requiring members to vocally vote for a member not present, can stretch five-minute votes to 10 or 15 minutes.
But members are still making better time than the beginning of 2021, when procedures put in place due to COVID-19 kept all votes open for 45 minutes.
“I wish the Democrats could speed it up. Maybe we should do two-minute votes,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said.
Mychael Schnell contributed.