Quick Takes: Could This Be the End of the House Freedom Caucus?

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* As I write this, Rand Paul is holding up a vote on the budget deal in the Senate. But that is nothing more than a delay tactic, McConnell and Schumer have the votes. The House will take it up later and Nancy Pelosi is a “no” because Ryan won’t commit to vote on DACA. She has told her caucus to vote their conscience. But there is another caucus that is standing firmly against this budget deal. If there is any chance it doesn’t pass in the House, Greg Sargent nailed it:

* Stan Collender has a fascinating take on what happens to the Freedom Caucus if this budget deal passes.

Indeed, all of HFC’s major reasons for existing at all could be eliminated if the deal is approved. Consider the following:

1. The budget deal effectively raises the debt ceiling for a year and, therefore, removes the prime legislative weapon the Freedom Caucus was hoping to use multiple times to get what it wanted in other policy areas.

2. The deal includes a key HFC priority of higher Pentagon spending. That means the HFC demand for increased military spending won’t be considered again this year or next.

3. The deal completely thwarts the key HFC priority of cutting domestic discretionary spending. In fact, the agreement does the opposite by increasing the level of domestic spending for both 2018 and 2019. Any new HFC-demanded cuts won’t be considered seriously or at all.

4. Yet another HFC priority—tax cuts—won’t happen again any time soon. With the House and Senate leadership effectively deciding not to do a budget resolution this year, there will be no reconciliation and, therefore, no chance to get a tax bill through the Senate…

5. No reconciliation also means the GOP has punted on another (or the) top HFC priority: repealing what’s left of the Affordable Care Act.

6. Yet another Freedom Caucus priority—cutting Medicaid and other mandatory programs—which was already going to be very difficult, is also all but impossible without reconciliation.

7. Threatening a government shutdown, a favorite Freedom Caucus tactic, will be far less likely with the two-year agreement on spending levels in the deal.

* Here’s a caucus that definitely needs to go:

In case you thought the worst stereotypes of Congress might be a figment of your imagination, Politico’s investigation of Representative Duncan Hunter, a California Republican — whose troubles range from alleged misappropriation of funds to excessive drinking — finds that he belongs to a “bros caucus.” Politico reports, “Former staffers to Hunter said he and his lawmaker friends — dubbed the ‘bros caucus’ by his aides — would regularly go to the Capitol Hill Club, a Republican hangout, to drink beer, sometimes during the day.”

* The executive vice president of Fox News, John Moody, wrote an op-ed today that basically says the U.S. Olympic team isn’t white enough.

Unless it’s changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to “Darker, Gayer, Different.” If your goal is to win medals, that won’t work.

A USOC official was quoted this week expressing pride (what else?) about taking the most diverse U.S. squad ever to the Winter Olympics. That was followed by a, frankly, embarrassing laundry list of how many African-Americans, Asians and openly gay athletes are on this year’s U.S. team. No sport that we are aware of awards points – or medals – for skin color or sexual orientation.

For the current USOC, a dream team should look more like the general population. So, while uncomfortable, the question probably needs to be asked: were our Olympians selected because they’re the best at what they do, or because they’re the best publicity for our current obsession with having one each from Column A, B and C?

* Democrats are going all-in on the 2018 midterms.

At House Democrats’ annual conference on Thursday, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), is expected to tell colleagues the committee is expanding the battleground to include 101 Republicans — the largest in a decade, a Democratic source familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The seven new targets push Democrats even deeper into Republican territory in South Carolina, Wisconsin and Texas. And they include the Ohio seat held by the man charged with defending the GOP’s majority, Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee…

The DCCC’s own polling of key districts has been more promising than national trends, showing President Donald Trump underwater not just in the 23 GOP-held districts Hillary Clinton won, but also in the more than 60 districts Trump won, and the 11 where retirements have left the seat open.

* Here’s the latest from the Cook Political Report:

This week, we’re shifting our ratings in 21 races towards Democrats. If anything, that still understates Democrats’ potential in individual races…

The balance of evidence points towards a very wide — and mostly suburban — House battlefield with up to 75 GOP-held seats and fewer than 20 Democratic-held seats in play. At this point, we still view Democrats as ever-so-slight favorites to net at least 24 seats and win a majority, but it’s a much closer fight than it was in December, when Democrats held a wider lead in national polls.

* Finally, here’s a nice little tune some of you might remember.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .