For several 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.
Eventually, however, it wasn't quite enough. As longtime readers know, 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 that would exclude those who weren't quite far enough to the right.
The House Freedom Caucus was born — and it racked up some victories. Two members — Mick Mulvaney and Mark Meadows — went on to serve as White House chief of staff, while Florida's Ron DeSantis became governor of Florida.
But what if some extremists decided the far-right Republican Study Committee was too moderate, and the even-further-to-the-right House Freedom Caucus wasn't quite unhinged enough? NBC News reported late last week:
A group of ultraconservative House Republicans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., are discussing launching an "America First Caucus" that would protect "Anglo-Saxon political traditions." Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told reporters Friday that he's "looking at" joining. "There is an America First Caucus," he said, confirming that Greene is involved.
Punchbowl News obtained a copy of the America First Caucus' seven-page "policy platform," which was every bit as nativist as one might expect. The document called for a "common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions" and a return to, of all things, an architectural style that "befits the progeny of European architecture."
The "platform," not surprisingly, went on to call for a "pause" to all immigration to the United States.
By all accounts, the initial membership list for the caucus was tiny. Marjorie Taylor Greene was initially described as a founding member, as was Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who's been dogged by questions in recent months about his white-nationalist ties. Gohmert publicly conceded that he was considering joining the faction, and while some reports said Rep. Barry Moore, R-Ala., had agreed to be involved in the effort, the Alabaman soon after said otherwise.
And then, of course, there was Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., currently at the center of a burgeoning scandal and ongoing criminal investigation, who published a tweet on Friday announcing that he was "proud to join" Greene in the America First Caucus.
Over the weekend, however, the whole initiative — which drew some oblique criticism from House Republican leaders — started to unravel. As NBC News reported, Greene released a statement Saturday saying the right-wing platform was "a staff-level draft proposal from an outside group that I hadn't read." Around the same time, Gosar issued a statement of his own, insisting that he hadn't authored the nativist document and adding that he intended to "continue to work on America First issues in the House Freedom Caucus."
All of which leaves us with a few questions.
First, Greene distanced herself from the ugly "policy platform," but she didn't explicitly say whether she intended to move forward with the creation of an America First Caucus or not. Will this entity exist or not?
Second, as Greene and Gosar distance themselves from the America First Caucus draft blueprint, where does this leave Gaetz? Remember, he publicly declared his "pride" in joining this right-wing offshoot after the platform reached the public through news accounts.
And third, if these right-wing members decide not to move forward with this nativist endeavor, won't that open the door to other House Republican radicals to seize the opportunity for themselves?