A cluster of far-right Republicans in the House of Representatives announced on Monday the formation of the Freedom Caucus, a group intended to combat a perceived centrist drift in the House's long-time home of conservative thought, the Republican Study Committee.
The RSC, formed in 1973 as a conservative watchdog to keep the Republican Party from becoming too moderate, has grown to 170 members, encompassing a large part of the GOP caucus. In recent years, hard-right members have complained that House leadership has seized control of the group and compromised its conservative principles.
In 2013, the RSC's Executive Director, Paul Teller, was fired by then-chair Steve Scalise, and Teller's supporters claimed that he was pushed out because he upset John Boehner by opposing the budget deal brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray. Around the same time, the RSC barred members of the conservative Heritage Foundation, including former Sen. Jim DeMint, from attending the committee's meetings after Heritage's role in the failure of Republicans to pass a Farm Bill that year.
Writing on the formation of the new Freedom Caucus, the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal news service says:
Membership in the Freedom Caucus will be by invitation only, and the group plans to "advance an agenda of limited, constitutional government in Congress."
"The House Freedom Caucus gives a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them," its mission statement says. "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."
While several members of the Freedom Caucus, including its interim chair Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, have been unabashed thorns in House Speaker John Boehner's side—two of them, Jordan and Justin Amash of Michigan, received votes from Republican rogues in the last Speaker's election—the new conservative group does not appear to threaten the Republican Study Committee's influence. The invite-only roster lists only nine members for now, most of whom remain members of the RSC.