WASHINGTON — At a time when most House Republican factions are preparing to see their ranks shrink regardless of whether their party loses its majority next week, one caucus is expecting its membership to grow.
The House Freedom Caucus, considered the most conservative bloc of Republicans in Congress, is expecting to increase its roster of 35 members to somewhere in the 37-to-40 range, based on the number of incumbent and recruited candidates they predict could lose Tuesday.
While a gain of two to five members is not much at face value, the House Republican Conference will most likely be a lot smaller in the next Congress. And the other major GOP caucuses, the conservative Republican Study Committee and centrist Tuesday Group and Main Street Caucus, are virtually guaranteed to have smaller memberships next year. So the more seats Republicans lose in the midterms, the larger the Freedom Caucus will be as a percentage of the conference.
But the sweet spot for a group that has gained power in the GOP-run House by withholding votes for key party priorities — in order to sway policies and processes toward its preferences — is a narrowly held Republican majority.
“It’s to our advantage to keep the majority,” North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, the caucus’s chairman, said in an interview. “And it’s certainly a distinct advantage if we keep the majority and we grow our caucus numbers. Our leverage improves and becomes significant.”
The House Freedom Fund, the caucus’s leadership PAC, has spent millions on vulnerable members and Republican hopefuls the caucus believes would be good recruits, through direct disbursements to the candidates and independent expenditures made in support of their campaigns.
Meadows and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the caucus’s founding chairman, do most of the fundraising but other caucus members contribute money to the PAC.
In total, the Freedom Fund has raised $6.7 million this cycle through Oct. 17, the end of the pre-general reporting period. They’ve spent $6.1 million over the same time period, and ended Oct. 17 with $786,000 on hand. The group’s goal this cycle was to invest $8 million, which it could still do before Election Day.