Scott Perry
The Freedom Caucus has previously been able to use their numbers to threaten a government shutdown. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

‘It’s Surrender’: Freedom Caucus’ Scott Perry Says Conservatives Have No Leverage

Perry said the Freedom Caucus now finds itself in “a bit of a transition” under Speaker Mike Johnson.

Things haven’t gone great for the House Freedom Caucus lately. Speaker Mike Johnson just passed a continuing resolution — his third since taking the gavel — and the group’s former chair says they’ve now found themselves in an unusual position: without a lot of power.

“There’s no leverage, that’s the point, it’s surrender. You’ve got eyes in your head, there’s no leverage,” Rep. Scott Perry told NOTUS after the House passed its latest short-term funding bill on Thursday.

Perry was at the helm of the Freedom Caucus in early 2023, as Republicans regained the majority, and is still a prominent member. He was one of several conservatives to push then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy to agree to a deal that made it easier for some of his colleagues to eventually oust McCarthy a few months later. In an interview in his office, Perry said the Freedom Caucus now finds itself in “a bit of a transition” under Johnson.

“We did a lot of things in the last two years around here, the Freedom Caucus did. I know it probably upset some people, but this place upsets people every single day and nothing changes, and we sought to change it and we did rock the place,” Perry said. “It hasn’t worked out perfectly, we’re not done.”

Johnson, a deeply conservative member, has long been aligned with the Freedom Caucus on policy issues. But since taking over as speaker, he has aggravated his right flank by relying on bipartisan majorities to get funding bills through.

Six of the 12 negotiated appropriations bills were released over the weekend and lacked the sweeping funding cuts Perry and his Freedom Caucus colleagues have been hoping for. Not only is the top-line number too high for the Freedom Caucus, but there’s also no policy wins for the group.

“Once you agree to the number, well, what leverage do you have to get the policy?” Perry said. “That’s what frustrates me, if we’re going to do like the CR and lose everything else, like get something. We haven’t gotten anything.”

Johnson said that though Republicans were up against “a divided government and historically small majority” the appropriations bills moved “policy and spending priorities of the federal government away from the previous Pelosi-Schumer FY23 appropriations.”

Current Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Bob Good said with spending levels in place and policies almost entirely ironed out, the outcome is a “failure” for the caucus. And if Johnson works under suspension of the rules for the minibuses, as he’s expected to do, that leaves the Freedom Caucus with no ability to block bills.

Good said he was told by Johnson last week that while there would be no “grand slams and home runs” in the bills for conservatives, there would at least be some “singles and doubles” in terms of policy.

“I’d like to know the examples of the doubles, and I haven’t heard anything that we’re going to get, policy-wise, I would consider a double,” Good said.

The Freedom Caucus has previously been able to use their numbers to threaten a government shutdown as some members hoped Johnson would this time around. Johnson also runs the risk of facing a “motion to vacate,” as McCarthy did last fall by angering the conservative bloc.

“Mike’s a good friend and he’s worried he’s dealing with a tough hand, although I do think we have a strong hand to caps that we should have leveraged and used,” Texas Rep. Chip Roy said. “We’ll keep working and trying to move the ball forward, but look, this is not the call I would have made and I think everybody knows that.”

Katherine Swartz is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.