Freedom Caucus chair Perry defends changing McCarthy vote, says speakership ‘accountability’ key
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania became one of the latest GOP holdouts to back Rep-elect Kevin McCarthy for House speaker, telling Fox News on Friday he’s held no ill will all along and that conservatives’ negotiations are intended to spark lasting change on how Congress operates.
“I wouldn’t say that we’ve been against McCarthy. I’ve known Kevin McCarthy since we were in young Republicans together,” he told “The Story.”
Perry notably responded to House Reading Clerk Susan Cole’s roll call by casting his vote for McCarthy “in good faith.” On “The Story,” he said that negotiations from some within the Freedom Caucus have been part of a “long road” toward improving the House’s responsibility to its constituents.
“I started this conversation last summer. It’s about changing the way things are done in Congress, and the status quo just doesn’t work for the American citizens. And I kind of saw potentially that this moment was going to come, you know, where the margins were going to be tight,” he said.
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Perry said that at first last year, there was not much explicit interest from House GOP leadership in bring about changes. However, after the November midterms, that tide turned somewhat.
The Harrisburg lawmaker confirmed one concession gleaned in negotiations is the return of the one-vote threshold to force a motion to “vacate the chair” – in which any member can therefore call for a vote to oust the sitting Speaker.
Such a possibility reportedly led former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to give way to successor Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
In 2015, then-North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows – later President Trump’s chief of staff – filed a motion-to-vacate against Boehner, which was referred to the Rules Committee but reportedly contributed to the Ohioan’s resignation.
Perry told Fox News the one-vote threshold was standard from the Jefferson administration until the Speakership of Rep-elect Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“[E]very single member should have that right. The speaker is the most important and the most powerful person in the building, and there needs to be an accountability unlike any other, not only to the American people but to the members of this body,” he said.
Of the remaining holdouts – who include Reps-elect Matt Gaetz of Florida, Matt Rosendale of Montana, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Bob Good of Virginia and Elijah Crane of Arizona – Perry would not say which members-elect he expects to see peel off in favor of McCarthy, but instead called the group “patriots” and friends.
“We have a framework of an agreement that we have gotten to in good faith, myself included – when you get what you ask for, then you should say yes,” he said – later underlining if that framework is “blown up” he will leave the McCarthy camp.
“I will tell you this, having been in every bit of the negotiations, not one of these individuals has asked for anything for themselves,” he said.
He also noted how the oft-cited “218” threshold number is not in-stone, pointing out that member absences from voting rounds or members voting “present” can lower it, as it had Friday.
Republican Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Wesley Hunt of Texas were absent – with Buck having a medical appointment and Hunt welcoming a newborn child – and Democrat David Trone of Maryland missed a vote round but later received a standing ovation from Democrats when he returned sporting crutches.
The McCarthy camp narrowed its margins in the latest vote, with Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, Rep. Andy Harris, breaking with the holdouts to support McCarthy.
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