For about four decades, far-right members of Congress enjoyed a special group, intended to be separate from the GOP mainstream. It was called the Republican Study Committee, and it was home to the House's most rigid ideologues and reactionary voices.
But a problem soon emerged. As we've discussed, the more radicalized House Republicans became, the more the Republican Study Committee included nearly everyone from the GOP conference. The Study Committee became fine for run-of-the-mill far-right members, but some really conservative members wanted an even more exclusive caucus.
The House Freedom Caucus was born.
For much of its existence, the Freedom Caucus was an annoyance to Republican leaders, but as GOP politics kept moving further and further to the right, its members took on greater influence. South Carolina's Mick Mulvaney was a Freedom Caucus member who became White House chief of staff. He was succeeded by Mark Meadows, who used to lead the Freedom Caucus. Florida's Ron DeSantis was a Freedom Caucus member who was elected governor.
Evidently, that's just the start. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week on the far-right contingent's plans to export its hardline tactics to state legislatures.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is making headlines in Washington today, but he's also looking to make a mark on state legislatures, including Georgia's, with the launch of the State Freedom Caucus Network. The network will be an extension of the House Freedom Caucus....
According to the Journal-Constitution's reporting the State Freedom Caucus Network will be backed by the Conservative Partnership Institute, a group led by former far-right Sen. Jim DeMint. The CPI — where Meadows has worked this year as a senior partner — is also home to Cleta Mitchell, a Republican lawyer who helped Donald Trump's anti-election efforts.
The Conservative Partnership Institute said Tuesday that the State Freedom Caucus Network intends to seed state legislatures nationwide with "principled, America-First conservatives." Among its principal policy priorities is "election integrity."
As for tactical considerations, the conservative Washington Examiner reported yesterday, "A gang of staunch conservatives could be bringing delay tactics and policy confrontations with Republican leadership to a state legislature near you."
By creating a state-based network, organizers hope to insert structure and strategy into factions of conservative state lawmakers so they can generate leverage in favor of more conservative policies. The network will provide a Freedom Caucus director to provide bill analysis and vote recommendations to part-time lawmakers, who are often strapped for resources.... In signature Freedom Caucus fashion, the network may also teach caucus members about its legislative rules and what procedural tools can be used as levers to exert pressure on Democrats and on their own party leaders.
As the State Freedom Caucus Network gets to work, it will reportedly have affiliates in nearly half of the nation's state capitols. If recent history is any guide, that number will soon grow, to the detriment of governing from coast to coast.