Three Republicans battle to succeed Meadows at House Freedom Caucus

Three members of the House Freedom Caucus have jumped into the race to lead the ultra-conservative group next year, several members told The Hill, as Republicans prepare for life in the minority.

The lawmakers who are vying to become chairman are Reps. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryHouse Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 House passes bill expressing support for NATO McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-Pa.), Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonNew push to open banks to marijuana industry Washington must defend American crypto innovation, not crush it GOP lawmaker unveils bill soliciting private contributions to pay for border wall MORE (R-Ohio) and Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight House passes bill expressing support for NATO McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-Ga.), according to members. Under current caucus rules, a lawmaker has to serve on the Freedom Caucus board in order to become the chairman.

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The Freedom Caucus, a band of roughly 30 conservative hard-liners, has wielded immense power in the majority by sticking together as a unified voting bloc to bend the party to its will, often demanding legislation that meets its standards. But the group will have significantly less power in the minority, though leaders of the group do have the ear of President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Winners and losers in the border security deal GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration MORE (R-N.C.), the current chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters Friday that he was indeed planning to pass the baton to someone else next year, despite backing down from a bid to be the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Meadows stepped aside so that Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Rod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power MORE (R-Ohio), his good friend and fellow conservative ringleader, could become ranking member, sparking speculation that Meadows would opt to keep his title at the Freedom Caucus. Meadows, a top Trump ally, said he wasn't sure what his next move was.

“We have a good tradition of passing it along to new leadership every couple of years. I think we will do that in February,” said Meadows. “I’ve learned that if you hold on to things too long, it’s not good.”

Perry is thought to be the front-runner in the race, with some conservatives suggesting that he was being groomed for the job throughout the year. Perry, a helicopter pilot in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard who fought in the Iraq War, appeared alongside Meadows and Jordan during high-profile immigration negotiations with GOP leadership this summer.

“I believe Perry will get the nod,” one Freedom Caucus member told The Hill.

But Perry faced a tough reelection race this year after redistricting made his district more moderate, so it could be a risky political move to have a such high-profile role atop the conservative caucus.

Perry, however, has repeatedly dismissed the notion that it would impact how he serves in Congress.

“I believe in the things I believe in,” he said earlier this month. “Doesn’t matter where I come from. So why would that change?”

The other contenders in the Freedom Caucus chairmanship race are Davidson, who won former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCrowley, Shuster moving to K Street On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Bill Clinton jokes no one would skip Dingell's funeral: 'Only time' we could get the last word MORE’s old seat, and Hice, a pastor and former conservative talk radio show host.

Scott Wong contributed.