A group of 30–40 House Republicans — more than enough to prevent House speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) from mustering 218 votes for anything — is organizing into a formal caucus and hiring staff.
The organization is devoted to pushing conservative legislative goals, as I write on the homepage, but it could be an important component of the next leadership elections. That’s because the existence of the caucus provides outsiders with an opportunity to count votes, and court supporters, in public.
“Any leadership election is pretty much about organization and who has votes lined up or who can reach a lot of members quickly,” says one member of the newly formed House Freedom Caucus. “That is going to be a factor in a contested leadership race.”
It’s quite a risk to challenge a sitting speaker on the House floor, which is one reason that some critics of Boehner refused to vote against him in the last two failed coup attempts. By forming as a caucus that works to pressure House leaders, potential challengers can gauge the appetite for new leadership without overtly crossing Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), or House Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.).
Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) will chair the new caucus, raising the possibility that he will use it as a springboard into leadership even though he’s ignored that siren call before. Even if Jordan never throws his hat in the ring, though, other candidates could try to build a bloc of support in the GOP conference by working with the caucus. And, the caucus could mobilize quickly during the next leadership election.
“Having a good organization, I think, can only benefit people who aspire to leadership and want to cultivate conservative support,” the lawmaker says.