The House Freedom Caucus is not a ‘cancer’ in Congress, it’s the future of our movement

The Washington political establishment took its first conservative scalp of the cycle with the recent defeat of Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), an outspoken member of the House Freedom Caucus.

This race is being used as a playbook to target other members of the group of about 40 fiscal and constitutional conservatives in the lower chamber, and those sharpening their knives aren’t shy about it.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus are a rare breed in Washington. They believe in free-market principles, reject cronyist policies that take advantage of taxpayers, and fight for constitutionally limited government. Occasionally, these convictions put them at odds with Republican leaders, who are often eager to cut deals with the White House and Democrats, and with Beltway insiders.

Parasitic, rent-seeking special interests — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — spent more than $3 million to smear Huelskamp and boost his primary opponent, Roger Marshall, who raised nearly $1.1 million on his own. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and others in the House Republican leadership refused to offer public support for Huelskamp or place him back on the House Agriculture Committee, from which he was unceremoniously removed for courageously standing up for conservative principles when John Boehner wielded the speaker’s gavel.

The true victims of this war are the next generation of Americans and their children, who will be saddled with tens of trillions of dollars in debt and lost opportunities.

Simply put, Huelskamp’s defeat was meant to send a message to the other members of the House Freedom Caucus. The political elite is intent on taking out the most conservative members of the House. The animosity is so palpable that Brian Walsh, a former National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) political director, recently compared members of the House Freedom Caucus to cancer.

“First, you try to ignore it; see if it gets better. Then you try to treat it with meds,” he said. “Now you just have to radiate it.”

Another insider operative suggested that his group would support “constructive conservative” primary opponents to incumbent House Freedom Caucus members. Don’t be fooled by the Orwellian catchphrase. “Constructive conservative” is just another way of this particular group saying that they will support candidates who kowtow to the status quo of more spending, more debt and more intrusions on our freedoms.

Huelskamp’s scalp is not enough for the Washington political establishment. Many of the same faux “conservative” groups that took out Huelskamp were active in primaries in Arizona and Florida on Aug. 30.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) came under attack from outside groups that were intentionally deceiving voters about his record to boost his moderate Republican challenger. One group, Right Way PAC, which describes itself with the Orwellian label “constructive conservative,” spent more than $500,000 to defeat Gosar. Happily, Gosar survived the primary challenge.

Gosar, another member of the House Freedom Caucus, has been one of the leaders of the effort in Congress to fight federal regulatory overreach. He introduced a resolution to impeach EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for committing perjury and making false statements during congressional testimony.

Moreover, with deficits on the rise and the national debt a threat to the prosperity of the next generation of Americans, Gosar was one of the principled members of the House to vote against the fiscal 20016 omnibus bill, a betrayal of conservative principles.

This massive $1.07 trillion spending bill blew through the spending caps established in 2011 under the Budget Control Act, one of the few accomplishments of House Republicans since they regained control of the chamber. The House Freedom Caucus, Gosar included, voted against it. Unfortunately, the backroom deal cut between congressional leaders prevailed, and taxpayers were stuck with the bill.

Unfortunately, Mary Thomas, who ran in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District, lost what would have been a golden pickup opportunity for conservatives. Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Fla.) opted not to run for re-election after court-mandated redistricting made the district solidly Republican. Thomas, who was endorsed by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), would have been an ideal replacement, picking up a seat for Republicans and adding another member to the conservative conscience of the House Republican Conference.

The same groups that helped defeat Huelskamp and were unsuccessful in their attempts to defeat Gosar spent heavily against Thomas, dropping nearly $700,000 to smear her and boost her opponent. Thomas ran a good race, but the outside influence of the Washington political establishment proved insurmountable, as she lost the primary by fewer than 1,720 votes.

Of course, the House Freedom Caucus has seen some successes this year, including the election of Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), who replaced Boehner, and the renomination of Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), just to name a few. But there are challenges ahead. The Washington political establishment has declared war on the House conservatives.

The true victims of this war are the next generation of Americans and their children, who will be saddled with tens of trillions of dollars in debt and lost opportunities.

Conservatives and libertarians alike must mobilize to protect and support these principled members as we close the chapter on the 2016 congressional primaries and prepare to strategize for the 2018 midterm elections.

The House Freedom Caucus is the future of our movement, and we must double down in our support of these conservatives and of the bold, principled ideas they represent.

Adam Brandon is president and CEO of FreedomWorks.

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