On either side of Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House Speaker were the founding members of two libertarian groups.

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Opinion

As members of Congress, Rep. Mark Meadows (RN.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have formed a brutally powerful duo on Capitol Hill over the past decade, developing a niche in blowing things up.

In 2015, Meadows joined current House Speaker John A. Made the touchdown that helped knock off Boehner (Ohio State), and Jordan helped win the House’s nomination over the next two weeks. establishment, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for speaker.

But in the last week, founders of the House Freedom Caucus have come up against Washington’s biggest fight: McCarthy’s marathon bid to become House speaker.

Jordan has served as a key emissary for many conservatives who distrust the veteran GOP leader. All week, he stalked the House floor, pushing the buttons of defectors, rushing to speak with McCarthy’s top advisers, then attending at least a dozen closed-door meetings.

Three blocks away, on the corner campus of a conservative nonprofit, Meadows hosts daily meetings of up to 20 ardent McCarthy critics, making this corner of Washington the new nerve center for Make America Great Again Republicans in Congress.

Meadows, who served seven years in the House and left in 2020 to become White House chief of staff to then-President Donald Trump, said he had no role in the rebellion against McCarthy.

“It’s not me, it’s being run by the member,” Meadows told CNN reporters as he entered the campus Thursday morning.

But new members of the Freedom Caucus acknowledged that Meadows had been a spiritual adviser through his decade-long battles with Boehner during recent clashes with McCarthy.

“Mark is a friend and a mentor as a person who has passed through this,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who began his second term on Friday. “He’s been through this, he understands the dynamics, he’s got the relationships. So it was important to be able to trust some of his advice.

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McCarthy’s episode revealed not only the divisions within the GOP Broad Conference of 222 Republicans, but also the deepening of the current version of the Freedom Caucus. On one side are the most senior members, such as Jordan, who was first elected in 2006 and chairs the Judiciary Committee, as well as the incumbent, eight-year incumbent Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.). McCarthy plaque. team.

They remain deeply conservative, but they can’t quite follow the philosophy of Caucus’s early days because they can now hold power while the House is up and running.

On the other hand, newcomers like Lauren Boibert (R-Colo.) are adopting the model proposed by Meadows, using social media and Fox News appearances to draw attention to their cause.

Of the 20 Republicans who voted more than once for the conservative alternative to McCarthy, only three served more than three terms. The 21st Republican, who is not affiliated with the Freedom Caucus, has consistently voted “now” and stayed out of the fray.

The Tories were further fractured after two-thirds of the pro-McCarthy group split in Friday afternoon’s vote. A final block of six challengers gave McCarthy another humiliation Friday night, eventually allowing him to win the 15th ballot early Saturday, the most since the Civil War.

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Now, after all the concessions won by those conservatives, today’s Freedom Caucus is poised to wield more influence than Meadows and Jordan ever dreamed of when they founded it eight years ago. a group of about three dozen Republicans. But these recent rifts raise questions about the Freedom Caucus’s ability to hold together, or whether members will squander this newfound political power they’ve fought for.

All signs point to Meadows and Jordan remaining very close friends, but their split with McCarthy spells a difficult future for the right-wing conservative group formed when neither of them is a foothold in power. .

Meadows now holds a Key Partnership designation from the Conservative Partnership Institute, a nonprofit organization founded by former Senator Jim DeMint (RS.C.). After a bipartisan lobbying firm outgrew the Capitol Hill townhouse, Meadows and DeMint stepped in to reclaim the rent and transform it into a state-of-the-art think tank — including a studio network that allows members to pursue media successes and a social networking club.

Young conservatives gather in the courtyard for “First Friday” happy hours, and members of the Freedom Caucus and their allies use the outpost as a regular meeting place to promote everything from the Biden administration’s Republican Institute.

It’s a much nicer setup than the basement of the now-shuttered Tortilla Coast restaurant on Capitol Hill, which was used seven years ago as a meeting place by right-wing lawmakers.

“The food isn’t great, but the coffee is good,” said Thomas Massey (R-Ky.), who never joined the Freedom Caucus but is a regular visitor as a kindred spirit. ideological.

Last week, as meetings in the grassroots caucus dragged on and McCarthy continued to falter, veteran Republicans saw the hand of their former opponent at work.

“Beautifully said,” said former Speakers Boehner and Paul D. Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), a close ally of Ryan (R-Wis.), on Friday. “If they get together at his house, at least he’s a fly on the wall. But knowing Mark – and I know him well – I’m sure he’s trying to exert some influence.

Meadows never made peace with McCarthy, and that animosity and mistrust persisted long after he left the House after becoming Trump’s chief of staff.

In the days leading up to the January 6, 2021 coup, McCarthy accused Meadows of poisoning Trump’s mind so he believed the 2020 election was stolen.

“I can only imagine it coming from Mark. Mark is lying to him,” McCarthy wrote in a Jan. 6 text message to a senior Meadows official, according to documents produced by the committee.

A Meadows assistant declined to respond to a request for comment. When Trump and other alumni of his administration voted for McCarthy, Meadows remained publicly silent.

Analysis: Kevin McCarthy, the divided Republican Party and the curse of January 6

Working together, Meadows and Jordan could derail a lot of what appears to be bipartisan support. In December 2018, ahead of a scheduled vote on a government funding bill, Meadows bragged to reporters about how she and Jordan booked Trump’s favorite Fox shows in an attempt to sway him on the bipartisan legislation.

The next day, Trump withdrew from the deal and the government went into a 35-day partial shutdown.

Jordan was the ideological leader of the group, and Meadows was the leader. Meadows liked to give his phone number to any reporter who asked for it, with all types of media — mainstream, liberal, conservative, television, print, digital.

As minority leader in 2019, McCarthy has pledged to reconcile with Jordan, a move to unify the caucus and find an ally to help him win the right-wing vote in future speaker races. He convinced Jordan to take the Republican seat on the Oversight Committee and eventually the stronger Judiciary Committee.

But McCarthy went further and began inviting Jordan to leadership meetings that former GOP leaders barred the staunch conservative from. Confidence developed and it showed in his battle for the Speaker.

After McCarthy failed on the first ballot on Tuesday, Jordan spoke on his behalf about the nomination.

“The hardest time in life is when you fall,” Jordan said, looking toward the middle of the chamber where architects usually gather. “The question is, can you come back? I always saw that he could do it. We must join him.

Throughout the week, Jordan’s allies have served as a back-and-forth, as on Thursday morning when Massey broke into a full-on sprint through Meadows-DeMint Township to deliver a message to GOP defectors.

Although he had previously participated in coup attempts against his own leaders, Massey remained with McCarthy and Jordan. As a result, Massey could take a seat on a new committee to investigate the Department of Justice, as demanded by the Tories.

Seven years ago, when Meadows and Jordan united against him, McCarthy’s nomination was rejected. This time with Jordan at his side and Meadows a few blocks away, McCarthy finally prevailed and got the chairman’s hand.

The next few months could be awkward for such close friends if the guests at the Meadows continue to antagonize the new president and his wingman, Jordan.

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