Conservative House Freedom Caucus blamed for McCarthy removal even though majority opposed effort to oust speaker

October 7, 2023
Ben Marquis

Following the recent removal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from his role as House Speaker, some media reports and commentary have created the impression that the effort was pushed and supported by the conservative House Freedom Caucus since one of its members, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), introduced the motion to vacate that led to McCarthy's demise.

Yet, the effort to remove McCarthy was not a House Freedom Caucus initiative at all, as a majority of the group registered their opposition to the idea when it was first put forward by Gaetz, Breitbart reported.

In fact, once the vote transpired and McCarthy was officially ousted from the speakership, it was clear that only a small handful of House Freedom Caucus members had voted for his removal while the vast majority of the conservative group voted for him to remain in the leadership position.

Majority of House Freedom Caucus opposed Gaetz's motion to vacate

Breitbart's report, which came prior to the vote on the motion to vacate, highlighted how a majority of the House Freedom Caucus members had publicly expressed their opposition to Gaetz's effort against McCarthy, including several members who had initially voted in January against McCarthy becoming House Speaker in the first place.

There were a variety of reasons given to not support Gaetz's motion, including that it was poor timing amid the last-minute rush to approve a spending bill and avoid a government shutdown as well as that it would distract attention away from the group's efforts to achieve aspects of its conservative policy agenda.

Also stated by some were concerns that Gaetz and those few Republicans who supported him lacked any sort of plan for a smooth replacement of McCarthy, not to mention that essentially decapitating the House during a bicameral budget battle would hand all leverage over to the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Majority of Caucus voted to keep McCarthy as Speaker

When it came time to vote Wednesday on the motion to vacate, USA Today reported that Rep. Gaetz was joined by just seven other House Republicans along with 208 Democrats, which proved sufficient to overcome the 210 GOP votes in support of retaining Rep. McCarthy as the speaker.

Those seven Republicans who joined Gaetz and the Democrats in ousting McCarthy included: Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ), Ken Buck (CO), Tim Burchett (TN), Eli Crane (AZ), Bob Good (VA), Nancy Mace (SC), and Matt Rosendale (MT).

Of those, only five appeared to be members of the House Freedom Caucus -- Buck, Crane, Gaetz, Good, and Rosendale -- though even if all eight were members, they would still represent just a small minority of the larger group of conservative House members.

Indeed, Fox News reported after the motion to vacate was passed that the vast majority of the Caucus voted in favor of McCarthy staying on as House Speaker despite an assortment of misgivings from some on the leader's efforts to uphold the promises he made in January to take various actions to advance the conservative agenda.

House Freedom Caucus often broadly blamed for actions of a few members

It is unknown precisely how many members there are in the House Freedom Caucus but it is generally believed to be around 40 total, give or take a few, according to an op-ed in The Hill by former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), a founding member of the Caucus prior to leaving Congress to join the Trump administration.

The op-ed from Mulvaney predated and was unrelated to the motion to vacate pushed against McCarthy but is nonetheless remarkably applicable in part in that it lamented how on numerous occasions the Caucus has been widely blamed or castigated as a whole by Democrats, their media allies, and some moderate Republicans over the actions or statements from just a handful of its members.

The focus of that piece published a little more than a week ago was on how the Caucus as a whole had been blamed for scuttling a compromise deal on a spending bill to avert a shutdown even though a majority of its members openly supported and even advocated for acceptance of the deal.

We are seeing that exact same storyline play out once more, as the House Freedom Caucus has been saddled by some with responsibility for McCarthy's removal even though a majority openly supported and voted for him to remain in that position.

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