NOTHSTINE: Why the House Freedom Caucus is important

In 2015, North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows filed a motion for the Speaker, then John Boehner, to vacate the chair. The effort hadn’t been tried in over a century. Wildly scoffed at and denigrated, Meadows, along with a cadre of like-minded representatives, fired a shot across the bow of the Republican Party before Donald Trump’s ascendancy.The last straw for many members in the Freedom Caucus was merely paying lip service to defund Planned Parenthood after a body parts-selling scandal of aborted human remains. Any prospect of a government shutdown had once again caused Congressional Republican leaders to capitulate in the face of President Obama’s threats. The line in the sand was wiped away even for the “least of these.”Boehner has moved on to a big lobbying firm, and Meadows is now set to become the chairman of the Freedom Caucus. Despite relentless media and establishment Republican criticism, the Freedom Caucus has proved to be the conservative conscience of the House. The group boasts about 40 members and has the power to help shape or even derail GOP legislation.With the election of Donald Trump, changes are certainly in store for conservative House Republicans who are often party dissenters on policy issues such as unsustainable budgets, cronyism, and lack of government transparency. Critics argue that their relevance is in decline, if not altogether obsolete by the emergence of Trump and GOP control of both chambers. However, that may prove to be another long line of faulty political predictions. Certainly many in the caucus backed Trump, but others denounced some of Trump’s big government proposals and rhetoric.House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is leading the charge that the caucus is now irrelevant and will be forced to fall in line. Perhaps he’s still sore the Freedom Caucus ambushed his opportunity to pick up where Boehner left off. McCarthy points out that Trump did even better among Freedom Caucus constituencies than other GOP districts and the population as a whole.But the Freedom Caucus is still an important and growing check on government largesse and business as usual in the Beltway. Some members of the caucus are already hitting the brakes on infrastructure spending. “If Trump doesn’t find a way to pay for it, then I think the majority of us ― if not all of us ― are going to vote against it,” said Wyoming Republican and Freedom Caucus member Raul Labrador.Republican Rep. Justin Amash from Michigan, more libertarian in his worldview, frequently skewers Trump on social media. Amash has gained national prominence for publicly explaining all of his votes via Facebook and abstaining from votes when not enough time is permitted to read or evaluate legislation. He recently called Trump out for his support of criminalizing flag burning by saying, “No president is allowed to burn the First Amendment.”Overall, the GOP Congressional leadership did not serve Americans well on federal spending during President Obama’s tenure. There is no guarantee that will drastically change under Trump. It’s up to the Freedom Caucus to curtail some of Trump’s big government, budget-busting proposals. That Mark Meadows has the potential to play a prominent role is good for North Carolinians and America. It’s not only the conscience of conservatism that must be protected, but also the long-term sustainability of our Republic.