New York Times columnist Timothy Egan (November 2014) was the first to coin the term “Crackpot Caucus”. Of the Georgia Congressional Delegation, Egan listed Jody Hice (R – 10th), Barry Loudermilk (R – 11th) and Rick Allen (R – 12th) among his esteemed “new crazies” taking on the Republican establishment as “political outsiders.” Hice and Loudermilk joined the radical right Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, otherwise known as Egan’s “Crackpot Caucus.”
Blogging While Blue highlighted the “Congressional Crazies” in a December 2014 blog and asked the question “Has the Speaker gone from herding cats to stopping stampeding elephants in the new Congress?” We know the answer to this question, Speaker John Boehner (R – OH) was stampeded out of office by the likes of Georgia’s own Congressmen Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk – as members of the Freedom Caucus. This caucus fiercely argued that Boehner was neither conservative enough nor confrontational enough in challenging President Obama on a variety of policies from defense spending to funding the Affordable Care Act. The Freedom Caucus wanted to invoke Article I, Section 2, and Clause 5 of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This rule allows the Speaker to “live or die” on his/her record each legislative session. It also allows the House membership to call for a vote on the Speaker’s leadership at any time during the legislative session. Rather than have this rule invoked against him, Boehner chose to resign. This rule is the center point of the current brouhaha that surrounds vacuum of leadership in the Republican Caucus.
Congressman Paul Ryan (R – WI), the former Mitt Romney vice presidential running mate is now reluctantly seeking the Speaker’s gavel. Ryan, who is being hailed in the press as the “Reluctant Leader” set ground rules by which he would ascend to the speakership. Ryan insisted on winning by a super majority of 80%, being endorsed by all factions of the Republican Party, “family time” to spend time with his wife and children, less fundraising responsibilities and most notably a repeal of the House rules that allow the Speaker to be challenged at any time during the legislative. Though the Freedom Caucus endorsed a Ryan candidacy for Speaker, they balked at changing the House rules. The Freedom Caucus did not want to rescind the rule that could lead to Ryan’s ouster. The caucus wants to reserve the right to review Ryan’s conservative credentials. Should Ryan not oppose Obama Administration policies to their liking, then, they want to be able to challenge his leadership. Remember, the Freedom Caucus believes “compromise”, the way a legislative body is supposed to operate, is a dirty word and an unforgivable sin against conservative principals.
This week will tell us if Ryan gets his way. This will be “the week that was” in Washington when it comes to the Republican leadership. Is Ryan going to be able to herd his elephants and keep them in line? Or, will they stampede him the same way they did with Boehner …. I have my popcorn and I’m sitting on the sidelines watching these circus elephants either get in line or stampede the new leadership into the political dust!