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The Freedom Caucus Strikes Back

This headline seems particularly apropos, since the Freedom Caucus (FC) and the leadership of the Galactic Empire in Star Wars have a great deal in common. Not everything, mind you—Darth Vader was able to be redeemed, for example.

Anyhow, there is no question that the FCers are hopping mad about the debt-ceiling deal that has now become law, in part because they got very little out of it, and in part because their next opportunity to hold the economy hostage won't come until 2025 at the earliest. At the same time, it's become clear that none of them currently has the fortitude to file a motion to vacate the chair.

Yesterday, the FC unveiled what is apparently its alternative plan. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was trying to move a pair of bills that limit the ability of the federal government to regulate gas stoves. The FCers support the legislation; after all, they have great affinity for anything that is full of gas and hot air. However, ten members of the caucus nonetheless banded together to keep the bills from coming to the floor.

McCarthy, by all accounts, was blindsided. This is believable, since he would never have brought the matter up for a vote if he knew what was coming. Bills fail, of course, but the vote yesterday was just on the question of whether or not to consider the bills. Those always succeed, because the majority party always votes "yea," either unanimously or nearly so. Well, not always, obviously, since it didn't happen yesterday. But the last time a speaker failed in this way was more than 20 years ago, back in 2002 (Dennis Hastert, in case you're wondering).

It's not clear what the FC's larger plan here is, or if they even have one. It could be this was a warning shot fired across McCarthy's bow—"Disappoint us again, and you'll rue the day." It could be that the FCers are going to do this multiple times, as prelude to arguing that McCarthy is ineffective and should be booted. It could also be that the FCers are going to do this multiple times, in hopes that McCarthy will fall on his sword and resign.

We will presumably learn in the next few weeks exactly how much trouble there is in paradise. Meanwhile, it's a bit more evidence that all those "Did we underestimate Kevin McCarthy?" thought pieces last week may have been a bit premature. (Z)

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