Austin Scott Knocks Conservative Rebels

For those of you who haven’t paid attention to what’s happening in Congress over the past two weeks, a group of House conservatives, including several members of the House Freedom Caucus, shut down legislative activity last week and on Monday. The causes of the revolt are anger over the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the aggressiveness of House Republican leadership in wrangling votes for the bill, and the failure of leadership to commit to a vote on the Pistol Brace CRA, H.J.Res. 44. (H.J.Res. 44 passed yesterday, by the way.)

The revolt began last Tuesday when 11 conservatives voted against the rule governing the consideration of several bills. A rule is a procedural measure, and the votes on the are traditionally along party lines. On rare occasions, you’ll see some members break ranks to either defeat a rule or get it over the finish line. For example, 52 Democrats voted with Republicans on the rule governing consideration of the Fiscal Responsibility Act while 29 Republicans voted with most Democrats.

In a Congress with little room for error, if enough Republicans vote against a rule, it can cause chaos, which is exactly what happened last week. Votes were canceled last Wednesday and Thursday. The bills that were scheduled for votes were moved to this week. None of the bills were must-pass or anything like that. They’re messaging bills that will die in the Senate. Votes were also canceled on Monday of this week until a deal was struck between Republican leadership and the conservative rebels, who want appropriations bills funded at FY 2022 levels rather than the levels in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. (Good luck with that in the Senate.) How long this detente will hold up is anyone’s guess.

Of course, rank-and-file members have voiced their frustrations at the conservatives who held up votes. Among them is Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who tweeted on Tuesday, “This is not about any individual or even the Speaker- it’s about governing. As I’ve said before, we cannot govern when 5% of the conference intentionally creates controversy to try to dictate what the other 95% do.”

There’s history here. Scott has previously gone after conservatives in the House Republican Conference. In March 2017, after the House Freedom Caucus sought to amend the health insurance reform bill that would’ve replaced the Affordable Care Act, Scott expressed his anger with then-Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). “Mark Meadows betrayed Trump and America and supported Pelosi and Dems to protect Obamacare,” he tweeted.

Obviously, Scott’s choice of words over a policy disagreement was very poor and absurd. Still, it highlights the view of the House Freedom Caucus as a whole that many rank-and-file members have. That said, his tweet on Tuesday, which was born of out frustration with the inability to vote on anything, underscores a point that doesn’t seem to hit home with House Freedom Caucus members. House Republicans have an incredibly thin majority, and they need to show voters that they can pass legislation.

Now, passing legislation is one part of what Republicans need to do. This highlights the problem with Scott’s tweet. Few of the bills that House Republicans have moved in this Congress are bipartisan in nature. I’m not just talking about bipartisanship in the sense that these bills pick up a few Democratic votes here and there. I also mean bills that can become law, meaning President Biden is willing to sign them. Thus far, Biden has vetoed more bills than he’s signed. None of those vetoes have been overridden.

Most of the rule bills Republicans have pushed through the House are messaging bills that aren’t going anywhere in the Senate. Scott knows that. Still, he has a point. The quickest way to the minority—other than standing by a former president who voters are tired of and refusing to accept that public opinion is against the Republican Party on abortion—is the inability to do anything. Voters won’t respond well to that level of dysfunction.

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