Reps. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., had to be broken up during a “heated” confrontation at a House Freedom Caucus event last month, according to Politico.
Though Boebert and Greene appear to be “MAGA twins,” Boebert privately “detests” being linked to Greene and tensions boiled during a recent meeting of the House Freedom Caucus board of directors near the Capitol, according to the report.
The two Republicans “tangled” over Greene’s February appearance at a conference organized by white nationalist Nick Fuentes, sources told the outlet.
An unnamed Republican lawmaker told Politico that the confrontation grew “so heated” that at least one onlooker feared that the exchange could “escalate beyond the verbal cage match” if another board member did not step in to de-escalate.
The incident underscored growing rancor inside the Freedom Caucus, a once-fringe group of far-right lawmakers that has grown in size and power since the Trump era. The group is “starting to split” on key issues as the caucus becomes more “populist and nationalist, but less bound by policy principles,” wrote Politico’s Olivia Beavers.
“We need to reevaluate where we’re heading,” Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a caucus member, told the outlet. “I like the principles that the Freedom Caucus was founded on, but I think that if we can’t work together as a group and push our ideas in a civil manner, then we’re not going to be very effective.”
The group was initially founded in 2015 after right-wing lawmakers like former Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., who went on to become former President Donald Trump’s top aide, split from the conservative Republican Study Committee over concerns that it was not right-wing enough. But now founders like Mulvaney fret about the direction of the group since Trump’s election.
“We were not designed to be just obstructionists,” told Politico. “We were not designed to be an extreme outrage machine.”
The group appears to be particularly split on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who stands to become the next House speaker if Republicans win enough seats in the midterms. Members like Boebert and Greene did not criticize McCarthy over his leaked comments vowing to press Trump to resign and calling for Twitter to ban Republican lawmakers who made incendiary comments ahead of the January 6 Capitol riot. Some of the group’s members are taking a “wait-and-see” approach as they prepare to seek concessions from Republican leadership if they win back the House, according to Politico. But other members aren’t as reserved.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., the former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told far-right news outlet OAN that McCarthy’s comments created a “huge trust issue” and said in another interview that if he is going to be speaker, he “needs to be a different leader than he is today.”
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., criticized McCarthy for denying that he vowed to call on Trump to resign before a leaked tape showed him doing just that.
“I don’t see how you can deny that it happened when it’s out there,” he told Politico.
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
House Republicans have pressed the group to focus its rhetoric on Democrats but members have continued to snipe at one another and other members of the GOP. Some members expressed concerns that the group may lose influence if Republicans win the House with a big enough majority.
“If it’s a slim majority, leadership can’t afford to lose a lot of Republicans and get things passed,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., told Politico.
The group has also gone through growing pains and changes within the group in recent years have led frustrated members to consider breaking off and starting new offshoot groups, according to the report.
The addition of far-right bomb-throwers like Boebert and Greene has also caused tension in the group. Despite Boebert’s reported disdain for Greene, the two Republicans joined together to heckle President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address. Viral photos showed Boebert and Greene chanting “Build the Wall” as fellow Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., sat uncomfortably between them.
Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., took a jab at his two colleagues over the incident by tweeting a photo montage of Donalds sandwiched between the two congresswomen set to a Stealers Wheel song “Stuck in the Middle With You.”
“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,” the song goes, “here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”