HELENA — US Rep. Matt Rosendale, fresh from a bitter battle within the GOP for the House speaker, swung through the state Capitol on Thursday to officially christen Montana’s native version of the Freedom Caucus.
Formation of the right-wing voting bloc was announced on January 3, but the group’s founding party was held on January 19 at the Montana State Capitol. The group is modeled after the US House Freedom Caucus, of which Rosendale is a prominent member.
“If you want change, you have to make change,” Rosendale told attendees, including Northwest Montana Senator Mark Noland, R-Bigfork, Carl Glimm, R-Kila and Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Libby.
Rosendale’s stance as a holdout in the multiple rounds of voting leading up to the rise of Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to Speaker of the House was praised by his imitators in Helena. Rosendale supported McCarthy’s rivals until the last roll-call vote – the 15th round – in the early hours of January 7th. Then he voted along with allies like Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. and Lauren for present. Boebert, R-Colo. to allow McCarthy to take the coveted position.
Many members of the State Caucus praised Rosendale’s actions.
“How many people paid attention to what Matt Rosendale just did for us?” said Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton, who serves as chair of the Montana Freedom Caucus.
Manzella highlighted some of the caucus’ areas of interest during the current Helena legislature, including the state’s budget surplus, judicial reform, parental rights, the integrity of elections and ensuring that there is no foreign ownership of property in the state. Eighty percent of the faction must agree before acting on the floor, she said.
Manzella also urged the public to engage with caucus membership to ensure lawmakers are hearing from their constituents.
“What [the caucus is] information and education and a unified voice,” Rosendale told the crowd.
He told attendees that it is crucial that the caucus plan together, stay in touch with the legislature and the public, and present a united front.
The public members of the caucus were also given the opportunity to present their aspirations for the caucus. Gunderson said he hopes to make a difference as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. Other lawmakers, like Noland, voiced their reasons for joining the caucus.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to fight for my country’s cause, to fight for freedom, to fight for my God,” Noland said.
While the caucus has yet to take steps within the legislature — the GOP holds a supermajority after last year’s election — members have high hopes.
“We are the guardian on the wall… We are the firewall for freedom,” Manzella said at the end of the event.
Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at [email protected]