HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Monday in Harrisburg, a group of state Republican lawmakers announced the new Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus. The caucus will be comprised of nearly two dozen Republican lawmakers who say they are focused on limiting the scope of government and restoring freedom to the commonwealth.
“We stand before you today to announce the launch of the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus, a group of likeminded legislators committed to standing in the gap for citizens of Pennsylvania against the power-hungry establishment,” said State Representative Dawn Keefer (R-York) who will chair the new caucus. “We know that when government powers increase, personal freedoms decrease. This Commonwealth is ripe with opportunity, but sadly that opportunity is thwarted and squandered time and time again by self-interest, egos and plain ignorance,” Keefer added.
Pennsylvania will join seven other states with a Freedom Caucus in the state legislature, as well as the United States Congress, which also has a Freedom Caucus, chaired by Republican Congressman Scott Perry (PA-10). Perry discussed why he believes the Pennsylvania Freedom Caucus is needed in Harrisburg.
“We stand for the millions of Americans who feel that government, state capitols, federal capitols have left them behind and they don’t have a voice. We’re bringing that voice,” said Perry.
Perry believes it’s important to have state lawmakers who won’t cave in to the pressures of Harrisburg and who are willing to stand up to their party’s leadership.
“These folks are here to fight for something, to fight for something that their constituents sent them here to do, not to come here and just take orders from leadership,” said Perry. “We don’t want this illusion of representative government. People vote for these representatives. They expect them to come here and do what they said they’re going to do, and too often, that is not the case,” Perry added.
Members of the Freedom Caucus echoed similar opinions about leadership and called out the House Republican Caucus for not doing enough to limit government growth and spending.
“Republicans have controlled the House and Senate since I took office in 2017, and the strides taken to make Pennsylvania the best place to work, live and raise a family have been nominal at best. As we have offered ideas, individually, to streamline our tax code, to rein in the 150,000 plus regulations, to empower individuals and support parents, we’ve been ignored, patronized, dismissed, and even marginalized. Worse, government has continued to grow at a breakneck pace,” said Keefer. “We need a clearly defined plan that gets buy-in from all members. We haven’t had that this past session, we’ve been lacking it for a couple of years,” she added.
Democrats on the other hand, say the Freedom Caucus represents a radical group of Republicans whose views are out of touch with Pennsylvania, and whose purpose is to block any progress in the 2023-24 legislative session.
“This is bonkers. This is the most radical, most extreme members of the Republican Caucus banding together, insisting to stall any type of progress,” said Representative Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie). “What we saw today with the announcement of the Freedom Caucus was nothing more than a cry for attention and a cry for help of a failing Republican caucus that has no direction moving forward. This was nothing more than the grievance caucus,” he added.
Bizzarro, the Chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee, says Republican lawmakers, especially those who lean further to the right, are in crisis mode after the election results earlier this month.
“20 days ago today, Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly sent a clear message that they are tired of radical politics, whether you view it as radical on the right, or more left policies. They do not like it. They do not want it. They want people to work together in a bipartisan manner, they are looking for moderation,” said Bizzarro.
Regarding the relationship between the Freedom Caucus and the House Republican Caucus, ErieNewsNow received the following statement from House Republican Caucus Spokesperson, Jason Gottesman:
“Members of both caucuses regularly form informal issue or policy-focused caucuses to bring attention to causes they feel are important. Foremost, we are the House Republican Caucus and we will continue to universally champion proposals that provide a path to opportunity for all Pennsylvanians. To the extent that any individual group participates in policy formulation that aligns with our overall goals, we appreciate the ability to have that dialogue.”
Keefer says members of the Freedom Caucus will not be identified, unless they choose to identify themselves.