The House Freedom Caucus has lost its second member since its founding.
Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., announced Thursday he was leaving the exclusive contingent of conservative hard-liners over the group’s role in derailing Thursday’s anticipated vote inside the House Republican Conference to nominate Speaker John A. Boehner’s successor. “I was a member of the Freedom Caucus in the very beginning because we were focused on making process reforms to get every Member’s voice heard and advance conservative policy,” Ribble said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “When the Speaker resigned and they pivoted to focusing on the leadership race, I withdrew.”
Members were set to vote Thursday for one of three candidates for speaker, the favorite of which was Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. But the California Republican stunned colleagues by announcing — with zero warning — he would not be seeking the nomination after all, throwing the conference into turmoil as they had all gathered in the Longworth House Office Building prepared to cast their secret ballots.
The HFC had decided the day before to vote as a bloc for another candidate, Florida Rep. Daniel Webster, and it wasn’t clear McCarthy had the votes to win — either in conference or on the floor. He told members he wasn’t “the one” to lead the group and privately shared with colleagues he would never have been able to satisfy the demands of the conservatives, even if he got the job.
“I spent thirty years as a leader in the private sector,” Ribble said in his statement Thursday night, “and I have a clear idea of the qualities that a leader will need to unite our Conference.”
Ribble’s resignation comes on the heels of Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., who left the group in mid-September over disagreements on the HFC strategy to vote against any continuing resolution that funded Planned Parenthood.
He has always been somewhat of an outlier in the HFC — a conservative who enjoys working with Democrats and isn’t afraid to tell his colleagues when he thinks they’re wrong.
The day before Boehner announced he would resign at the end of October, Ribble was among a handful of founding HFC members summoned to the speaker’s office to discuss what the caucus would and wouldn’t be willing to accept in a stopgap spending measure to avert a government shutdown on Sept. 30.
The morning of Boehner’s resignation announcement, Ribble said he was disappointed.
“I told the speaker yesterday he had my support and I hoped he would continue on,” Ribble told reporters. “I told him that in front of my colleagues in the Freedom Caucus.”
Members of the Freedom Caucus and conservative allies in the GOP conference were, of course, at that time mulling options for taking a vote to oust Boehner on the House floor — a contributing factor to his decision to leave.
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