A small group of Republicans in Lansing don’t like the direction the party is going and they are working to do something about it.
They call themselves the Freedom Caucus, a group of Republican representatives who consider themselves “Constitutional Conservatives” and are uniting to create a voice in Lansing, against more progressive policies from both parties.
The Freedom Caucus was launched with its first four members just before the legislature began last week in Lansing. On the very first vote on the House floor they made themselves known. The final vote was 102-8, those eight dissenting votes are either members of the Caucus, or soon to be.
“We’re very principled. We’re very convicted in our beliefs,” said Rep. Steve Carra, Chair of the Freedom Caucus, “We want to stand strong on those.”
The Caucus is a sliver of the Republican party that wants to bring the rest of the party back to the traditional platforms. The Caucus so far is made up of Chair Carra, Vice Chair Rep. Matt Maddock, Secretary Rep. Rachelle Smit, and Parliamentarian Rep. Angela Rigas. There are a handful of members yet to be officially added, including Rep. Joseph Fox of Fremont and Rep. Neil Friske of Ellsworth.
“In terms of being pro life and pro gun,” said Carra. “And less rules and regulation and taxes, and fines.”
Democrats have the majority and more Republicans are sliding toward the middle. Carra says not because of beliefs but because of influence.
“There are people who may want to brand themselves as moderates, but if it’s with what the lobbyists want, then that doesn’t make you moderate,” said Carra. “You’re doing the interest of those with access and connections in Lansing.”
Right away they made their mark, the first vote on the floor was to elect Joe Tate as Speaker of the House. Usually this comes to a unanimous vote. This year there were eight ‘no’ votes.
“I would’ve voted no on any of the Democrats for Speaker,” said Carra, “I just don’t agree with them on so many critical issues.”
While it had no impact on the outcome, those who voted no saw committee assignments limited and signaled trouble for Republicans as a whole.
“This is a very narrow majority, 56-54, and that requires us to come to the middle,” said Rep. Matt Hall, House Minority Leader. “We can’t go and start pushing down these divisive policies.”
The Freedom Caucus needs numbers to truly make a difference and know that takes time.
“We won’t get any good legislation through but hopefully since it’s only a small majority not everything is going to get there,” said Rep. Friske. “Hopefully we can do a lot of stopping of a lot of really bad stuff.”
Or they can inspire voters to elect more like-minded lawmakers to their cause.
“I think the Republican Party uniting behind the principles of the Republican Party, like we want, is the best way to inspire people,” said Carra.