McCarthy concessions elevate Scott Perry, Freedom Caucus: Pa. political analyst

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

It took a long week filled with power struggles, but as the House of Representatives now turns its attention to voting on the rules of the term, a Pennsylvania congressman appears to have gained significant power.

"It certainly elevated a guy named Scott Perry," was political analyst G. Terry Madonna's opinion of the weeklong struggle to elect a speaker for the House of Representatives.

While Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California ultimately prevailed, it took major concessions to the arch-conservative members of his caucus, including Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., left, talks with Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., after the first round of voting for House Speaker during opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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As head of the House Freedom Caucus, a group seen as the most conservative bloc in the House, Perry was a leading opposition voice in McCarthy's struggle for the position. Perry voted for Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; and Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., before shifting his vote to McCarthy during the 12th of 15 total votes.

"It put the Freedom Caucus in a position to have considerably more influence than they would have had otherwise without the arrangements that they worked out with McCarthy and his people," said Madonna, who has decades of experience polling voters and covering elections at Franklin & Marshall College and Millersville University.

Perry touted those deals on his Twitter account, where he was active during the speaker struggle.

"We fought for and secured agreements on major reforms ending the status quo in Washington," Perry tweeted on Saturday after the vote that secured McCarthy the speaker position.

On Monday, the House of Representatives voted in rules for the upcoming term, including several changes that limit McCarthy's power.

Those rule changes include the "Jefferson rule," which will allow any single representative to initiate a motion calling for McCarthy's removal, and changes to limit spending.

After the voting was completed, Perry spokesperson Jay Ostrich touted the impact of the rules in a statement.

"The vote ratified a historic, transformational agreement to restore the people's House back to the American People," Ostrich said.

It's hard to predict what the impact of the concessions will be, Madonna said.

"We're going to have to wait and find out," Madonna said. "If you look at it on the surface, it certainly looks like the [House Freedom] Caucus made considerable inroads."

Why did McCarthy keep going and then concede so much? The answer's simple, Madonna said: He wanted to be speaker.

"So he did not withdraw from his candidacy, and that's largely because he wanted to be speaker and he made the deals in order to get the speakership, notwithstanding a lot of the criticism about the deals that he made," Madonna said.

Another thing yet to be determined: Perry's committee assignments, including whether he will chair any committee.

"Would it surprise me? No, because of his elevated status. Do I know? No," Madonna said.

Perry hasn't been forthcoming on any potential committee assignments, though he indicated that he could be a part of any House probe into the events of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, despite his heavy involvement in events leading up to it.

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A committee to investigate the "weaponization of the federal government" may include probes into prosecutions stemming from that attack.

“Well, why should I be limited — why should anybody be limited just because someone has made an accusation?” Perry said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

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“Everybody in America is innocent until proven otherwise,” he continued. “The American people are really, really tired of the persecution and the instruments of federal power being used against them.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a supporter of former President Donald Trump and someone Perry had voted for during the speaker battle, now chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which would lead the potential probe.

Local Democrats, as they have in the past, blasted Perry's conduct during the speaker struggle.

"He and his colleagues literally halted the business of the US Congress for days because they were like petulant toddlers. They clearly demonstrated that the GOP is not ready for leadership and, if this display last week is any indication, we are in for another two years of nothing but fighting and inability to get anything done," Democratic Party of York chairperson Chad Baker said via email.

"Republicans in this area who voted for Perry should really think hard about the consequences of their actions and whether they feel they advanced the fight for their needs in DC."

The York County GOP did not respond to a request for comment.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.