While 20 hard-right members of the U.S. House of Representatives held the national Republican leadership hostage in Washington last week — forcing concession after concession — something very different was taking place in the Republican-controlled South Carolina House of Representatives.
In this former Confederate state, where Republicans hold 88 of 124 seats in the House of Representatives, the party’s contemporary mainstream has faced challenges from the party’s hard right similar to those that plagued congressional Republicans throughout the tenure of speakers John Boehner, Paul Ryan and now Kevin McCarthy.
Instead of acceding to the hard right, though, South Carolina Republicans turned the tables and demanded that the 19 members of the South Carolina Freedom Caucus abide by a set of rules prohibiting them from campaigning against fellow Republican incumbents or violating the confidentiality of discussions among closed meetings of Republicans.
Refusal to sign onto the rules, which Freedom Caucus members have attacked as a “loyalty oath,” would prohibit Republicans in the state House from membership in the South Carolina Republican Caucus, effectively relegating them to legislative marginalization. So far, 71 Republicans have signed the rules while 17 have not, according to sources who attended a closed state Republican Caucus session on Tuesday.
The intraparty conflict has remained largely out of public view in South Carolina except for coverage in a conservative web-based publication, FITSNews, run by Will Folks. “Make no mistake,” Folks wrote in a story published Monday, “