Rep. Jim Jordan says the Republicans’ days of House Speakers John A. Boehner and Paul D. Ryan are over.
Mr. Jordan said his party is finally embracing the values espoused by the archconservative House Freedom Caucus, which he helped found in 2015.
As the successor to the Tea Party Caucus, the Freedom Caucus advanced the populist movement’s battle with the Republican Party establishment and ultimately found a champion in Donald Trump and his “America First” agenda of curbing foreign interventions and cracking down on illegal immigration.
“I do think the party has moved in a conservative direction,” Mr. Jordan told The Washington Times. “I always said we’re a populist party rooted in conservative principles, and no one demonstrated that better than President Trump. That’s what the Freedom Caucus is really about.”
The congressman from Ohio, who served as the first chair of the Freedom Caucus, chronicles the group’s rise in his new book, “Do What You Said You Would Do: Fighting for Freedom in the Swamp.”
In its initial stages, the caucus became the point of the spear in the far-right’s campaign to overthrow the party establishment.
As part of the battle, Mr. Boehner was ousted from his leadership position over his reluctance to escalate the fight with Democrats for conservative causes such as defunding Planned Parenthood.
Mr. Boehner and Mr. Ryan did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Boehner warned this year that Mr. Jordan and his politics are threats to conservatism. He dubbed Mr. Jordan a “legislative terrorist” who blows up the political process and doesn’t accomplish anything.
In his book, Mr. Jordan reflects on the Freedom Caucus‘ clash with Republican Party leadership and suggests that the early battle six years ago has a harbinger of Mr. Trump’s election a year later.
“The formation of HFC and the election of Donald Trump were driven by the same set of events that unfolded over an eight-year time frame,” Mr. Jordan wrote. “Some were actions done solely by Democrats, others involved both parties, but unfortunately, most of the events that became the catalyst for the formation of HFC and the election of Donald Trump were failures by Republicans — failures to do what they said they would do.”
Dave Brat, a tea party candidate who unseated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary in Virginia, said the Freedom Caucus was tuned into the party‘s base long before the conference fully recognized its voters’ concerns.
“When I got to D.C., I was [considered] a renegade and quite radical,” Mr. Brat said. “I fought for less than trillion-dollar budget deficits and sane spending and some of those policies back then that the Freedom Caucus was very, very concerned with.”
Freedom Caucus members say the party is finally catching up to them, not the other way around.
The caucus has grown to roughly 40 members, including some of the party‘s most boisterous newsmakers such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Matt Gaetz of Florida. Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona is the chairman.
The mainstreaming of the Freedom Caucus has trickled down to the state level. Last week, the Georgia General Assembly announced its own version of Congress’ most conservative caucus.
The launch is part of the State Freedom Caucus Network, which seeks to expand into various state legislatures.
However, Republican strategist Jimmy Keady said, “The problem is that sometimes the Freedom Caucus takes things a step further [beyond] an acceptable line where most Republicans are.”
Mr. Boehner said in his memoir released this year that Republicans should purge the far-right wing of the party. He referred to the new breed of conservatives as “everyone from garden-variety whack jobs to insurrectionists.”
He urged voters to return to the Ronald Reagan brand of Republicanism, which the former speaker warned is dying.
“You can vote to send people there to represent you who actually want to get things done instead of hucksters making pie-in-the-sky promises or legislative terrorists just looking to go to Washington and blow everything up,” Mr. Boehner wrote.
The ideological battle is also set to play out in the midterms. More candidates allied with the Freedom Caucus are expected to run in a year when Republicans are favored to win back the House majority.
Republicans need a net gain of just five seats to secure the majority in the lower chamber.
Mr. Gaetz has predicted a total takeover of the Republican Party in November.
“We are going to take power after this next election,” Mr. Gaetz said. “When we do, it’s not going to be the days of Paul Ryan and Trey Gowdy [when there was] no real oversight and no real subpoenas. It’s going to be the days of Jim Jordan, Marjorie Taylor Greene and [Paul] Gosar and myself.”
Asked about Mr. Gaetz’s prediction, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy focused on Democrats rather than a potential intraparty challenge from the Freedom Caucus.
“If House Republicans earn the majority next year, we will be united in our efforts to hold the Biden-Harris administration accountable for the crises they’ve created and to get America back on track,” Mark Bednar, a spokesman for Mr. McCarthy, said in a statement to The Times.
House Democrats have seized on the rise of Freedom Caucus figures in the Republican Party and branded them as extremists.
“[There’s a] choice between what Democrats are all about in delivering with a party of opportunity and what Republicans are all about,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “They’re the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Dr. Gosar and Lauren Boebert. I’ll take that contrast any day.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously attributed a quote to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy instead of McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar.