As speculation continues to swirl around who the potential candidates will be to fill the void left by retiring Congressman Kevin Brady in the Texas 8th district, one prospective candidate’s recent actions hint very strongly towards a campaign.
Over the weekend, Christian Collins, a former Brady staffer and founder of the Texas Youth Summit, met with House Freedom Caucus Leaders Mark Meadows and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH). Collins has stated publicly that he is “strongly considering” running to replace his old boss. His meeting with Jordan and Meadows, national figures influential with the conservative movement, is an indicator of just how strongly Collins is considering the prospect.
“Nice visiting with Congressman Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows (President Trump’s former Chief of Staff and Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus) over the weekend,” Collins wrote in a Facebook post. “They really liked what we are doing with Texas Youth Summit to reach the next generation with Conservative Principles.”
The House Freedom Caucus is group of about forty or so of the furthest-right Republican members of congress. They were founded in 2015 amid dissatisfaction among the more conservative members of the House Republican Caucus with the leadership of then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
According to Mick Mulvaney, one of the Freedom Caucus’ founding members who eventually went on to work in the Trump Administration, the caucus was formed when, “we got together and decided we were a group, and not just a bunch of pissed-off guys.” The caucus eventually was able to force Boehner out. Originally an outgrowth of the Tea Party movement, the House Freedom Caucus was a proponent of limited government, free market capitalism, and strict constitutionalism. Mulvaney has since revealed that the caucus’ original informal name was the “Reasonable Nutjob Caucus.”
However, the House Freedom Caucus has since drifted away somewhat from it’s original Tea Party roots. Originally at odds with Trump over healthcare legislation, the group eventually came to march in lock step with the former president, with Mulvaney and and Meadows going on to serve as acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Staff, respectively. Much of the caucus abandoned their fiscal hawkishness towards deficit spending and opposition to sweeping executive orders during the Trump years. The ideology of the House Freedom Caucus in aggregate now tends to be more right-wing, populist, nationalism rather than traditional small government conservatism.
Mulvaney, who resigned from the Trump Administration after the January 6 Capitol Insurrection, has told The Dispatch in a podcast interview that in hindsight the caucus’ desire to be “anti-establishment” was their primary drive, and ended up being more integral than any particular policy or ideology.
Still, the House Freedom Caucus continues to have tremendous influence among grassroots Republicans, not to mention the ear of Trump. Jordan served as the first chair of the caucus and is now the vice-chair. Meadows, Trump’s former Chief of Staff, served as the groups chair from 2017-2019. Before resigning to join the White House, Meadows was considered one of Trump’s closest allies in Congress.
A Different Approach From Brady?
The fact that Collins would so publicly meet with leaders of the House Freedom Caucus while considering a congressional run is interesting in light of the fact that he used to work for Brady, and could hint towards a break between the governance styles of the two men. Brady is not a Freedom Caucus member, but rather, as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, he is a member of the Republican leadership that the caucus was originally formed to oppose.
Brady was in many respects a generic GOP congressman. He voted conservatively enough to keep getting re-elected in his deep red congressional district, but he was moderate enough to earn the ire of his party’s Tea Party wing. He worked for the Chamber of Commerce before running for office, and governed as a wonkish, chamber-style corporate Republican his entire career. Brady rose to the pinnacle of power in Washington due to his affable nature and knack for relationship-building and climbing the ladder.
While it remains to be seen whether Collins would join the House Freedom Caucus or vote in line with them, he certainly seems to be aligning himself with them and wants to be perceived as more of a “movement conservative.” The House Freedom Caucus has a political action committee (PAC) that endorses and funds congressional candidates. It will be interesting to see if Collins picks up the PAC’s support or gets the coveted personal endorsements of Meadows and Jordan, which could help significantly in a crowded primary election.
In his Facebook post about the meeting, Collins praised the Freedom Caucus leaders, channeling a Trump-esque message:
“One of the things I’ve appreciated about them both as members of Congress is how outspoken they have been in support of the America First Agenda on trade, building the wall to secure our borders, and avoiding endless wars.”
Collins also lauded Jordan’s vote against certifying the 2020 election results, “Not only do I like what Jim says, but I also like how he votes,” said Collins. “I appreciate that Jim voted ‘ ‘No’ on certifying the results of the election. Jim may have lost some corporate donors for this vote but it is little wonder why he raked in 1.7 million in small-dollar contributions last quarter; it is because he stood for the American people instead of the interest of woke transnational corporations who care nothing about our nation’s sovereignty or greatness. We need more fearless Conservative Warriors like Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows in Congress who put America First!”