Members of the South Carolina Freedom Caucus are revolting against legislation proposed by their Republican counterparts that they say is intended to “muzzle” and “silence” their lawmaking abilities in exchange for giving Democrats more legislative powers.
Although mainstream Republicans in the state vehemently deny this suggested motivation for the legislation, Freedom Caucus State Director Evan Newman told Fox News Digital the pair of bills, H.4695 and H.4735, would limit the ability of caucus members to propose amendments within the legislative process.
He also argued one of the bills would give Democrats “equal footing” with the “liberal” Republican supermajority by providing the minority leader the ability to select the same maximum number of amendments to move forward with a given piece of legislation. The new maximum amendment rule would prevent Freedom Caucus members from pushing conservative ones through, he said.
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According to Newman, Freedom Caucus Republicans have been pushing their policy priorities by proposing amendments to legislation because of their departure from the House Republican caucus last year following a refusal to sign a “Soviet-style pledge” that included a ban on engaging in campaign activities against any other Republican in the caucus.
“It’s kind of ludicrous,” he told Fox News Digital. “This was not to streamline the legislative process. It was to ensure that the Freedom Caucus would not be able to put up amendments on conservative legislation in an election year and force Republicans to take hard votes. That’s what it was all about.”
Neither of the bills has yet to be brought to the House floor for a vote, something Newman attributes to the backlash caucus members were able to drum up through their grassroots network.
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“We got thousands of phone calls placed in the span of probably eight hours,” Newman said, adding that the bill was then notably absent from the vote calendar.
“It still hasn’t come back up, and all that we’re hearing is that they’re trying to get back to the drawing board to come up with some other sort of rule change. Maybe they won’t bring it up at all, or maybe they’ll just ram it through when we’re not paying attention. That’s kind of where we are now,” he said.
In statements to Fox News Digital, the caucus’ executive leadership ripped what they referred to as “RINOs,” or Republicans in name only, and likened the bills to something national Democrats would do while in the majority.
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“This unprecedented attempt to neuter the House of Representatives is a play straight out of [Nancy] Pelosi’s playbook. We need more debate, more transparency, and less top-down control in the People’s House,” said Freedom Caucus Chair and state Rep. Adam Morgan.
Caucus secretary and state Rep. Josiah Magnuson called the bills “a blatant muzzle aimed to silence non-uniparty legislators” and called for making it easier for individual legislators to better represent their districts.
“It’s time for the South Carolina General Assembly to pay attention to the conservative values of the people,” he said.
“RINO ‘Republicans’ are attempting to bring Nancy Pelosi-style rules to the South Carolina House with the sole purpose of silencing conservatives,” said caucus Vice Chair RJ May.
“Instead of working with conservatives to secure a more prosperous and free future for South Carolinians, they are consolidating power in the hands of two people, elevating radical Democrats to positions of power, and stripping the people’s elected representatives of their ability to legislate. These moderate hacks pushing this rule change must be defeated,” he added.
Non-Freedom Caucus Republicans tell a different story about the legislation.
“H.4735 is a win for substantive debate, public input, and effective legislating. Contrary to sensational claims, the cloture rule aims to eliminate filibusters that waste time and hinder the passage of solid, conservative legislation,” state Rep. Jay West told Fox News Digital.
“The rule is almost exactly what the South Carolina Senate passed three years ago, as part of a conservative revolution in that chamber. No one who wants to contribute productively to the legislative process will be stifled,” he added.
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Another member familiar with the legislation also refuted the Freedom Caucus’ claims, telling Fox News Digital that one of the bills limiting the number of amendments a single member can propose had never even been discussed in a committee and that the legislation allowing a maximum number of amendments to be selected by the party leaders was intended to prevent Democrats “filibustering” bills with amendment debate.
According to the member, the times in which cloture, or the limiting of debate on a bill, is invoked only occurs “a few times a year,” meaning the instances in which the party leaders would select a maximum number of amendments to move forward would be few and far between.
The member added that the legislation was essentially a copy of the same rules implemented by the state Senate three years earlier and argued it would actually work in Freedom Caucus members’ favor.