Members of the Freedom Caucus and Their Mission in Congress

jim jordan speaks at a political event
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Freedom Caucus is a voting bloc of about three dozen Republican members of the House of Representatives who are among the most ideologically conservative in Congress. Many of the Freedom Caucus members are veterans of the Tea Party movement that took root following the bank bailouts of the Great Recession and the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008. As of 2020, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus was U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona.

The Freedom Caucus was formed in January 2015 by nine members whose mission is to “advance an agenda of limited, constitutional government in Congress.” It has also argued for a more decentralized power structure in the House, one that allows rank-and-file members a greater voice in deliberations.

The mission of the Freedom Caucus reads:

“The House Freedom Caucus gives a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them. We support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.”

The coalition has been described as a splinter group of the Republican Study Committee, the conservative group that serves as a watchdog on the party's leadership in Congress.

Founding Members of the Freedom Caucus

The nine founding members of the Freedom Caucus are:

  • Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.
  • Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.
  • Rep. John Fleming, R-La.
  • Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.
  • Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio
  • Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho
  • Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.
  • Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.
  • Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz.

Jordan was elected the first chairman of the Freedom Caucus. 

Members of the Freedom Caucus

The Freedom Caucus does not publicize a membership list. But the following House members have also been identified as being members of the group as of June 2019, according to Ballotpedia.

  • Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.
  • Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.
  • Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.
  • Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C.
  • Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va.
  • Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas
  • Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio
  • Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
  • Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.
  • Rep. Russ Fulcher, R-Idaho
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas
  • Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
  • Rep. Mark Green, R-Ariz.
  • Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va.
  • Rep. Andrew Harris, R-Md.
  • Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga.
  • Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio
  • Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz.
  • Rep. Alex Mooney. R-W.V.
  • Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C.
  • Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala.
  • Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa.
  • Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla.
  • Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va.
  • Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas
  • Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.
  • Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas
  • Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas
  • Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

Why the Small Freedom Caucus Is a Big Deal

The Freedom Caucus represents but a small fraction of the 435-member House. But as a voting bloc, they hold sway over the House Republican Conference, which seeks support from at least 80% of its members for any move to be considered binding.

“Choosing their fights carefully, the Freedom Caucus has certainly made an impact since its formation,” wrote the Pew Research Center’s Drew DeSilver.

DeSilver explained in 2015:

“How does such a small group get to have such a big say? Simple arithmetic: Currently, Republicans have 247 seats in the House to 188 for the Democrats, which would seem to be a comfortable majority. But if the 36 (or more) Freedom Caucus members vote as a bloc against the GOP leadership’s wishes, their effective strength falls to 211 or fewer—that is, less than the majority needed to elect a new speaker, pass bills and conduct most other business.”

While the makeup of the House has changed since then, the strategy remains the same: to maintain a solid caucus of ultraconservative members who can block action on legislation they oppose even if their own party, the Republicans, control the House.

Role in John Boehner Resignation

The Freedom Caucus rose to prominence during the battle over Ohio Republican John Boehner’s future as speaker of the House in 2015. The caucus was pushing Boehner to defund Planned Parenthood, even if it meant forcing a government shutdown. Boehner, tired of the infighting, announced he would abandon the post and quit Congress altogether.

One member of the Freedom Caucus even suggested to Roll Call that a motion to vacate the chair would pass if all of the Democrats were to vote in favor of ousting Boehner. “If the Democrats were to file a motion to vacate the chair and were to vote for that motion unanimously, there probably are 218 votes for it to succeed,” the unnamed member said.

Many in the Freedom Caucus later supported Paul Ryan’s bid for speaker. Ryan was to become one of the youngest speakers of the House in modern history.

Controversy

A handful of Freedom Caucus members defected because they were unhappy with the group’s tactics, including its willingness to side with Democrats on votes that would undermine mainstream or moderate Republicans, including the effort to oust Boehner through a Vacate the Chair motion.

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin quit after the leadership coup. “I was a member of the Freedom Caucus in the very beginning because we were focused on making process reforms to get every Member’s voice heard and advance conservative policy,” Ribble said in a written statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “When the Speaker resigned and they pivoted to focusing on the leadership race, I withdrew.”

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock of California quit the Freedom Caucus nine months after it formed because, he wrote, of its “willingness—indeed, an eagerness—to strip the House Republican majority of its ability to set the House agenda by combining with House Democrats on procedural motions.”

“As a result, it has thwarted vital conservative policy objectives and unwittingly become Nancy Pelosi’s tactical ally,” he wrote, adding that the Freedom Caucus’ “many missteps have made it counterproductive to its stated goals.”

View Article Sources
  1. Ethier, Beth. “House Conservatives Form ‘Freedom Caucus’ as Right-Wing Rebellion Continues.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 26 Jan. 2015.

  2. French, Lauren. “9 Republicans Launch House Freedom Caucus.” POLITICO, 26 Jan. 2015.

  3. House Freedom Caucus.” Ballotpedia.

  4. DeSilver, Drew. “House Freedom Caucus: What Is It, and Who's in It?” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 30 May 2020.

  5. House Rebels Warn of Blowback for Boehner.” Roll Call, 24 June 2015.

  6. Second Republican Resigns From House Freedom Caucus.” Roll Call, 8 Oct. 2105.

  7. French, Lauren, et al. “House Republican Quits Freedom Caucus.” POLITICO, 16 Sept. 2015.