Friday, October 09, 2015

The House Freedom Caucus: Political Tyranny

House Freedom Caucus Chairman (R-OH) Jim Jordan
Let's hope the roughly 30 to 50 Republican members of the House of Representatives who dubbed themselves "The House Freedom Caucus" are feeling good about themselves.

Back in January a group of the most conservative GOP members formed a political coalition under the vague common goal of shifting the direction of the Republican party even further to the right.

Given the GOP's total enslavement to the whims of the Tea Party, the gun lobby and detached right-wing media pundits, is such a thing even possible?

According to the words of the Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Ohio Representative Jim Jordan (pictured above), this group of optimistic political troublemakers simply wanted "to give a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them." 

As of today they've managed to totally destroy the functionality of the governing party of the nation's lawmaking body, torpedo the ability of the GOP to get the 218 votes needed to elect a Speaker of the House, and create unnecessary anxiety for the over 320 million Americans wondering if Congress will be able to perform their job by approving a budget for the largest economy in the world - a budget that doesn't include petty riders attached designed to placate the extremist ideology of a small fraction of the population.

Folks if you're looking for the engineers of the Republican train wreck that this dysfunctional, obstructionist Congressional majority has become, meet the Freedom Caucus.

How bad is it?

Republican Tom McClintock
As Lauren French reported in an article on back on September 16th, it's gotten so bad that influential Republican California Congressman Tom McClintock (pictured left) announced he was resigning from the House Freedom Caucus because their overly confrontational positions on major issues like the Iran nuclear agreement and approving Congressional funding of the Department of Homeland Security were undermining the ability of the Republican party to govern.

French's article quotes from McLintock's letter to the Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan:

“When the House Freedom Caucus formed in January, I fervently hoped that it would provide responsible and effective leadership to advance conservative principles in the House of Representatives…[but] I believe the tactics the HFC has employed have repeatedly undermined the House’s ability to advance them. I feel that the HFC’s many missteps have made it counterproductive to its stated goals and I no longer wish to be associated with it.”

It's important to note that McClintock's resignation from the Caucus came just prior to Republican Speaker John Boehner's surprising announcement that he'd be retiring from Congress following Pope Francis' visit to Capitol Hill.

So McClintock's departure from the Freedom Caucus is also a reflection of the measure of disgust at Caucus efforts to boot Boehner from his position as speaker (a controversial measure put forward in July by North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows) over extremist's absurd demands to defund Planned Parenthood as a condition for funding the federal government.

McClintock isn't alone in his disgust by the way.

Congressman Reid Ribble
As Mike Lillis reported on the yesterday, Wisconsin Republican Congressman Reid Ribble (pictured left) also resigned from the House Freedom Caucus last month too.

Just as sure as NYPD Captain Brian McCaughey was only fined 30 paid vacation days for pulling his gun on two innocent 12 and 13-year old African-American boys playing tag in front of a Brooklyn home two years ago, you can bet more members of the Freedom Caucus are considering dropping out before this out of control collection of ideological lunatics gets any more toxic than they already are.

No wonder John Boehner resigned from the 3rd most powerful position in the federal government.

We're way past the point where it's necessary for the majority of the American people to take responsibility for standing up to crack this toxic political stasis by becoming more active and vocal about demanding more from the leaders elected to serve on our behalf.

But where to begin?

There are arguably four places where there's clear bi-partisan consensus on the need for immediate legislative action.

Sensible gun control laws, prison reform, a transportation spending bill that addresses the nation's massive infrastructure needs are all issues a clear majority of the American people want to see action on and issues where Republicans and Democrats have indicated a willingness to come together to pass legislation.

And how about passing a real federal budget that's not just another childish 10-week extension political cop-out designed to allow the same 30 to 50 dysfunctional Republican wingnuts to have another tantrum about imposing their narrow-minded ideology on the rest of the country?

But to accomplish that, Republicans will first need to demonstrate that they can muster the 218 votes needed to elect a Speaker of the House.

Just four hours after announcing his candidacy for the Speaker's chair, Republican Majority leader (R-CA) Kevin McCarthy abruptly withdrew his name yesterday, saying at a press conference:  

"If we're going to unite and be strong, we need a new face."

Yesterday I watched Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina being interviewed live on CNN.

He denied that a letter he'd sent to Republican members of the House demanding that any candidate for Speaker of the House must be able to pass moral and ethical scrutiny had anything to do with McCarthy's decision to drop out of consideration for the Speaker's chair.

Kevin McCarthy and Renee Ellmers in undated photo
Interestingly, over the past 24 hours rumors are circulating among multiple media sources that Jones' letter was indirectly referring to an alleged affair McCarthy, a married father with two kids, has been having with Republican North Carolina Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (a married mother with a child); an affair that has supposedly been going on for months.   

Ellmers has strongly denied the rumors.

To be fair, the allegation is alleged to have come from letters mailed to a number of Republican Congressman by an activist GOP donor known for making controversial accusations and statements - but he did refer to an alleged secret videotape of McCarthy and Ellmers having dinner together.

By the way, Walter Jones is also a North Carolina Congressman and the Department of Homeland Security is conducting an investigation into whether a DHS employee used a government computer to post the affair allegations on Wikipedia.

This whole affair (no pun intended) could have come straight from a House of Cards script.

Earlier this morning GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson was interviewed on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC and he was asked if he would consider himself a part of the Freedom Caucus if he was elected President.

Carson, who's about as politically right as it gets and normally purrs like a cat bathing in milk when he's called a "Tea Party darling" as the media often labels him, carefully avoided saying he wanted anything to do with the Freedom Caucus.

Given the current media focus on the chaos within the Republican Congressional leadership, if there is any truth to the McCarthy-Ellmers affair rumors, they're sure to come out.

But in the meantime, the House Freedom Caucus has left itself exposed as a major political liability at a time when the GOP is desperate to demonstrate to the American people that it can govern.

The silence from the leading Republican presidential candidates on the party split and the House leadership crisis is deafening and tells you all you need to know about just how toxic this is to Republican efforts to re-take the White House in 2016.

Personally I can't wait for the Sunday morning political talk shows, because Republicans really need to ask themselves how long they're going to allow 30 - 40 out of control inmates to run the asylum.
Maybe it's political karma?

After all, a small group of Republicans has been responsible for driving much of the obstructionist legislative maneuvers that have crippled the federal government, stalled critical legislation and put the economy at risk - all in the name of an unpalatable political ideology that sits way outside the fence of mainstream Americans.

The ironically-named House Freedom Caucus has proved to be little more than an exercise in political tyranny against the majority of the American people.

The Republicans themselves set these dogs loose and they were content while they were snapping at President Obama and the Democrats.

Now they're back home running around the Republican's yard and they can't find a willing leader strong enough to go outside the house and deal with them.

Political karma is a bitch.

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