US Rep. Troy Nehls resigns from far-right Freedom Caucus

ByIssac Yu, The Texas Tribune
Wednesday, July 10, 2024 10:34PM
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U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Richmond, has resigned from the far-right House Freedom Caucus after a divisive vote Monday night to kick out another member.

Nehls was on the losing side of a 16-13 vote that ousted Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio over his endorsement against the group's chair, Rep. Bob Good of Virginia. The move leaves just three Texans in the group of arch-conservatives, down from five at the start of the term.

Davidson is the third Republican to be ousted from the Freedom Caucus in the last year. Nehls told USA TODAY that he wanted to see the group continue to grow rather than boot members.

"With tonight's vote, it was clear that is not their objective," Nehls said in his statement. "I value what the HFC brings to the table, and I can assure them I will continue to support their conservative agenda. I just won't be a member."

Davidson faced the group's ire after he endorsed John McGuire over Good in the Virginia primary. Good, who as chairman frequently clashes with GOP leaders, narrowly lost that primary in June but says he is pursuing a recount.

Nehls is not the first Texan to leave the Freedom Caucus, which has become famous for antagonizing GOP leadership. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, was kicked out in March after a spat with Good over Weber's attendance in caucus meetings. Weber had been in the group for nearly a decade but said he came to dislike the group's increasingly fiery tactics under Good's leadership.

Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, was a member of the group during his first term in Congress but quit in 2017 over the caucus' obstruction of the GOP agenda under former Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and then-President Donald Trump. Rep. Ted Poe of Humble, who is now retired, also left for similar reasons.

The Freedom Caucus has long been known as the most conservative bloc of Republicans in Congress. But its growing ranks and increasing willingness to buck the party line have caused headaches for party leadership, especially in the current Congress, where the Republicans only hold the majority by a handful of members.

The caucus gained more clout this term when former Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California agreed to place three Freedom Caucus members, including Rep. Chip Roy of Austin, on the powerful House Rules Committee, which sets the terms for floor debate on all bills going through the House. Roy, the caucus' policy chair, has since used his Rules position to bend the committee further to the right. Freedom Caucus members were also instrumental in the push that ousted McCarthy from his speakership last year.

Nehls' departure leaves just three Texans: Keith Self of McKinney, Michael Cloud of Victoria, and Roy, who has been floated as a replacement chair if Good steps down early. Good's term as chairman technically ends in 2025, but he will have to step down at the end of the year as he exits office.

The caucus has struggled over internal divisions for at least a year. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who broke with the group to back McCarthy and clashed publicly with HFC member Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, became the first member ejected from the group since it was founded in 2015. Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado was also ousted over apparent attendance issues just days before leaving office. Still, the group's membership has swelled in recent years, with 45 members at the start of the 2022 term.

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