WASHINGTON - Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs will serve as the third chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, after the group of roughly three dozen hard-line conservatives elected him to take over its leadership effective Oct. 1.
The sophomore congressman will replace North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows next month - a fall leadership transition that Meadows had long been planning. Meadows has served as the group's chairman for the past 2 1/2 years following the two-year tenure of Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the founding chairman.
"I can't think of a better person to pass the torch to than Andy Biggs," Meadows said in a statement. "Rep. Biggs is an outstanding public servant, a strong conservative, and a steady voice with the right experience to build on the tremendous strides our caucus has made since 2015 in fighting for open, limited and accountable government. He'll be a phenomenal leader for our group."
Biggs in his own statement thanked Meadows, Jordan and his predecessor in Arizona's 5th District, Republican Matt Salmon, who was a founding member of the Freedom Caucus.
"Freedom Caucus members have shown that they will stand for principle over politics - every time," he said. "The House Freedom Caucus has created a national reputation by standing up for Americans who have felt that they didn't have a voice in Congress."
Formed in 2015 as an offshoot of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, the Freedom Caucus sought to push the policies of the GOP majority at the time further to the right.
The group often clashed with Speaker John A. Boehner. In 2015, Meadows filed a motion to vacate that could have led to a floor vote on whether the Ohio Republican should continue to lead the House. The move instead prompted Boehner to opt for early retirement rather than rattle the institution.
The Freedom Caucus had a slightly better but still largely cool relationship with Boehner's replacement, former Speaker Paul D. Ryan. And had Republicans held on to the majority this year, the caucus would have presented obstacles to Kevin McCarthy's rise to GOP leader.
Jordan ran against McCarthy for the post this cycle, but because Republicans are in the minority, McCarthy only needed to be elected by a majority of the GOP conference instead of the 218 votes he would have needed in a speaker's race.
In the minority, the Freedom Caucus has been able to cooperate with leadership more as the conference has largely presented a united front against Democrats' policies and investigations into President Donald Trump.
Biggs, like Meadows and Jordan, is one of the Trump's fiercest public defenders. With its leadership taking such positions, the Freedom Caucus has been criticized at times for following Trump on issues where they previously have put up more of a fight.
In his statement, Biggs made clear the group's fighting spirit isn't lost but suggested its targets have changed.
"We must fight against increased government spending and for a balanced budget. We must fight for border security and the elimination of all loopholes that incentivize illegal entry into this nation," he said. "We must work to lower health care costs and improve access and quality for all Americans. We will stand with President Trump as he keeps his promises to the American people. And we will never forget the people who sent us to Congress to work on their behalf."
Biggs will make leadership decisions for the caucus in consultation with its board, on which Meadows and Jordan will continue to serve. In February, the Freedom Caucus also created two new leadership positions, electing Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson to serve as policy chair and Georgia Rep. Jody Hice to serve as communications chair.
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