Gauntlet thrown: House GOP's conservative wing warns status quo not an option in next Congress

House Freedom Caucus drafts memo to future new lawmakers urging them to hold out for radical change in the way the House operates because Congress "is worse than you thought."

Published: October 20, 2022 10:58pm

Updated: October 20, 2022 11:52pm

In a pointed message to leaders and lawmakers alike, the conservative wing of House Republicans is circulating a draft guide to new lawmakers urging them to hold out for radical change in the way Congress operates if the GOP wins control in the midterm elections.

"Republicans ran to fix Washington," reads the memo from the House Freedom Caucus obtained by Just the News. "We cannot continue to govern in the same way that broke it."

The seven-year-old caucus has grown in influence and size in recent years, giving rise to GOP stars such as former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, likely House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, the current chairman of the caucus. It has long fought for fiscal discipline, law and order and massive reductions in federal agencies, budgets and regulations.

The caucus' memo provides a stinging rebuke of the way former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and current Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi have run the House chamber, urging every new member to hold out for change, starting with leadership elections that will be held just days after the Nov. 8 elections.

"Some of the most important votes come before you're even sworn into office. Will you be ready?" the draft memo asks, warning new members that veteran lawmakers will likely try to schmooze them into complacency, starting with the orientation, votes for leadership and House rules in mid-November.

"The simple truth is that it perfectly suits some if you are unprepared or unaware of their significance," the memo warns of the first votes in the caucus set to happen in mid-November if the GOP prevails. "Some will urge you to be a 'team player' by falling in line with leadership and doing what you're told.

"You'll be warned not to rock the boat by raising questions or concerns with leadership's agenda," it adds. "Before you make any decisions, however, you should be aware of the realities here in Washington and the opportunities we have to change them."

The memo tells incoming freshman that Congress is "worse than you thought" and that current rules allow for most members to be sidelined on every major decision, except for final votes.

"The state of affairs in the US House of Representatives has steadily deteriorated over recent decades to the point at which the balance of power is so lopsided that members of Congress often will find themselves with no meaningful role in major policymaking," the memo warns. "For most members of Congress, their impact in lawmaking is limited only to voting up or down on final passage of major legislation.

"The result is that the People's House serves almost everyone in Washington except the American people. It does not have to — and it should not — be this way."

The memo description of the current rules of conduct in the House reads like an indictment of the Ryan-Pelosi years, noting:

  • No member has been able to offer an amendment in an open process on the House floor in six years.
  • Committee assignments are based on perceived loyalty to party leadership and agreement to meet a fundraising quota.
  • At best, members will have a handful of days to read legislation before voting. Many bills, even massive pieces of legislation, are routinely rushed to the House floor within hours of being released.
  • Unless serving on the Appropriations Committee, members are rarely allowed to impact decisions on spending. Even those on the committee, however, are frequently sidelined, since party leadership often cobbles together massive spending bills in secret at the 11th hour.

"It's time to set the House right," the memo urges.

It recommends new lawmakers ask probing questions of potential leaders during the caucus election process, such as whether they will retaliate against members who don't accept the leadership's ideas and whether enough time will be given to adequately read all legislation before votes are scheduled. They also demand that officials return to the way Congress operated decades ago — known as Regular Order — and allow amendments and bills to be considered if 10% or more of the caucus supports an idea.

Another idea it advocates is letting the members of each House committee — rather than leadership — choose their chairman, informing new lawmakers that committee assignments are currently based on "perceived loyalty to party leadership."

The memo lays out the very first battle the GOP-leadership-in-waiting will face in the House if Republicans win in November: the lame-duck spending bill that is required to be passed when federal funding runs out in December.

The memo urges representatives-elect to pressure their leadership not to surrender to a full year's spending bill that's filled with liberal priorities from an outgoing Democrat majority.

"Republicans must be united in opposition and allow our incoming freshmen reinforcements to arrive and take our anticipated majority in January so that they and the voters who will send them to Washington can have a voice on legislation to fund the government as well as any other must pass bills such as the National Defense Authorization Act," the memo urges.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy's office was not available for comment on the memo. Just the News reached out to Minority Whip Steve Scalise's office but did not receive a response before publication. 

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