The Republican Study Committee (RSC) was established to pull the GOP caucus to the right by constantly fighting for conservative principles, no matter which party was in the majority.
But in recent years, conservatives have often complained that leadership exerted influence over who chaired the group and the members were too often willing to sacrifice conservative values to advance leadership’s agenda.
So when a member of the House Freedom Caucus won the backing of influential members of the RSC, conservatives took heart that the group was on the verge of returning to its roots.
The Freedom Caucus split off from the RSC because they believed the group’s core mission – to advance a conservative policy agenda – had been compromised by leadership meddling and the RSC’s ranks being filled with moderates who looked at membership as a way to burnish their conservative credentials and help ward off a primary challenger.
But this year, the Freedom Caucus made a bid to reestablish the RSC as a counterweight to party leadership by running one of their own for the chairmanship.
Andy Harris of Maryland – a Freedom Caucus member – declared his intent to run for leadership of the RSC.
And he’s won the endorsement for outgoing chair Representative Bill Flores of Texas.
This was a major announcement that signals leadership may not be interfering in this election due to the growing strength of the Freedom Caucus.
The RSC’s founders, an influential group which consists of current Chairman Bill Flores (R-Texas), Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) and previous leaders of the caucus, said while both Harris (R-Md.) and Walker (R-N.C.) are qualified to serve as chairman, Harris’ seniority in Congress helped sway the decision.
“While we determined that both candidates are qualified and would serve as effective chairs of the RSC, we believe that Andy’s additional experience from serving three terms as a conservative leader in the House of Representatives and his overall approach to serving his House colleagues will be beneficial to the organization,” the founders wrote in an announcement sent to RSC members obtained by Politico.
The founders’ endorsement comes after some House Freedom Caucus members were threatening to abandon the RSC in recent weeks.
The RSC is the largest caucus on Capitol Hill with 178 members, and because of that boasts considerable sway within the Republican conference.
The endorsement is signed by all of the group’s founders including Johnson, Flores, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), leader of the House Freedom Caucus, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.).
In an interview with The Daily Signal, Harris explained his vision for the RSC:
“There’s disunity currently and any split in the conservative movement isn’t good,” Harris, 59, said in his first interview since announcing his bid. “I’d seek to be a unifier in the conservative wing. The main goal is to make sure that RSC is part of the conservative movement…”
… For months, members of the Freedom Caucus have been mulling a departure from the Republican Study Committee, which some criticize as not conservative enough. They say that while the groups share many of the same members, the RSC has lost its way politically and become a shill for GOP leadership.
To prevent that exodus, Harris said the RSC must restore the organization’s original vision of being “the conservative anchor in Congress.”
“You have HFC members publicly coming out and saying that they no longer believe the RSC is a conservative vehicle for change in Congress,” Harris said. “I want to change that opinion.”