Could Congressman Scott Perry lead the Freedom Caucus?

  • Ed Mahon

During his re-election campaign, Congressman Scott Perry frequently defended his role in the Freedom Caucus.

Now, according to a report from The Hill, he could soon lead the group, which is filled with some of the most conservative members of Congress.

The Hill reported that the current Freedom Caucus chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, told reporters that he was planning to step down from the role in 2019. Unidentified members of the Freedom Caucus listed Perry, Warren Davidson of Ohio and Jody Hice of Georgia as the three Republicans seeking to replace Meadows.

One unidentified member of the caucus described Perry as the leading contender.

Perry, a Republican from York County, was first elected to Congress in 2012. He was re-elected by large margins in 2014 and 2016, but then the state Supreme Court redrew the map and put him in a more competitive district. Perry defeated Democrat George Scott by less than 3 percentage points.

Perry’s office didn’t provide any additional details about his interest in leading the caucus. Brandy Brown, Perry’s communications director, said caucus members “are working that out among themselves.”

G. Terry Madonna, a longtime pollster and political science professor in Pennsylvania, said Perry seems like a logical choice to lead the caucus. Whether or not that leadership could make Perrys’ re-election in 2020 more difficult depends on what he does in the role, if he obtains it.

But, Madonna said, “make no mistake about it, come 2020, most political observers would be stunned if Scott Perry does not have a very formidable Democratic opponent.”

The Freedom Caucus is going to be in a different situation than in past years. For the first time since the group was created in 2015, Republicans won’t be in the majority in the House.

The about three dozen Freedom Caucus members previously had enough votes to deny a Republican the job of speaker of the House. A 2015 article from the Pew Research Center said the “group’s defiance of Speaker John Boehner, over issues such as fast-track trade authority and defunding Planned Parenthood, contributed to Boehner’s decision last month to quit the job.” Meanwhile, members of the group resisted Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s efforts to become House speaker and he ultimately dropped out of consideration.

Boehner later criticized the Freedom Caucus.

“They can’t tell you what they’re for. They can tell you everything they’re against. They’re anarchists. They want total chaos. Tear it all down and start over. That’s where their mindset is,” he said in 2017, according to Politico Magazine.

The group played a large role in the debate over the Affordable Care Act and efforts to repeal it. At one point, Republican President Donald Trump tweeted that “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

But caucus leaders later backed a revised bill that would have allowed states to opt out of some parts of the Affordable Care Act. The measure passed the House but repeal efforts failed in the Senate.

Freedom Caucus members suffered a blow recently, as Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio failed in his bid to become Republican leader in the House. Jordan was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus. During the campaign, Perry said he would support Jordan for speaker of the House, if Republicans won the majority.

During the 2018 campaign, Perry’s opponent frequently criticized him over his role in the Freedom Caucus.

Here’s how Perry defended the group during one debate:

“The Freedom Caucus has a couple rules. Number one rule is you have to listen to your constituents at home even if your leadership says you don’t. Right, they want you to do something, you choose your folks at home. Number two, you have to be willing to compromise and come to an agreement on something. We call it getting to yes.”