House Freedom Caucus braces for an internal brawl

The leadership-bucking House Freedom Caucus is facing a watershed moment, as several internal clashes risk ripping the group apart.

The intense flare-up centers around the Monday night ouster of Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), led by allies of Chair Bob Good (R-Va.), who is on the precipice of losing his own reelection bid. Davidson had endorsed Good’s primary challenger, John McGuire.

The 16-13 decision to remove Davidson — a move his allies felt bent the group’s bylaws, and took place when some Davidson supporters weren’t present — has members predicting that others will resign over the matter. One lawmaker already announced directly after the vote that they would: Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas).

“I’m sure we’ll have some,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said about the possibility that more members will soon depart the group. “We’ve got a lot of issues to address.”

It’s not the first time the group has had tension recently, but the public comments underline just how strong the current divisions are, given the group’s typically secretive nature. Members were warned not to talk about the Davidson drama, according to two people in the group’s recent meetings, but frustrated lawmakers have still privately and publicly complained.

Generally, under the group’s bylaws, Freedom Caucus members are only found to not be in good standing — a label that makes it easier to oust someone — if they haven’t paid their dues or don’t attend meetings. That was not the case with Davidson. But Good’s allies felt Davidson’s endorsement constituted a clear betrayal and necessitated booting him, a decision that deeply divided the group.

Davidson’s most vocal ally, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), made clear he disagreed with that choice. And he acknowledged the possibility that more of the roughly three dozen group members could head for the exits.

“I voted against it and spoke against it. … I’ve always been opposed to that,” Jordan said, referring to the ouster vote, adding that it was “unfortunate” that other members of the group were leaving.

A Freedom Caucus spokesperson responded to a request for comment by saying the group doesn’t discuss internal matters.

Even before the board tapped Good to become chair, the group’s membership has been having a long-simmering identity crisis. Norman, noting that there are “differences of opinion” within the group, floated that members were already likely to head for exits even before the Davidson fight. While the group was once considered a monolith, there are increasingly public clashes between the group’s old guard and newer members who were swept in during and after Donald Trump’s time in the White House.

Early fault lines occurred over tactics some in the group have deployed in order to make demands. Some of the most high-profile issues occurred when a subset of Freedom Caucus members helped block Kevin McCarthy from the speakership in January 2021, and then when five HFC members joined the effort to remove the Californian last fall.

There is also frustration about certain strategies members of the bloc have used on the House floor to push changes to legislation, including blocking party bills by tanking procedural votes. The group has split several times over whether or not they should be using hardball tactics like sinking legislation to send a message to leadership.

And the group even publicly and privately split over whether to back an unsuccessful bid to oust Speaker Mike Johnson earlier this year.

Tempers could cool if Good vacates his position as chair. He lost his primary by about 400 votes, a margin that allows him to request a recount. He’s publicly stated he plans to do so, though he has not yet officially triggered that process.

But Republican aides and HFC members are already privately questioning if he can remain as Freedom Caucus chair for the rest of the year if his election loss becomes official, private discussions that were first reported by POLITICO.

Because Good was initially elected to serve as chair through 2025, he will have to step down early unless he somehow wins a recount. Some members privately bet he remains chair through December and goes out swinging, while others believe he will be pushed out earlier if he officially loses.

Several names are being floated as a potential successor if Good exits early: Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas), Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).