So on March 6, just hours after Ryan unveiled a plan that confirmed its worst fears, the House Freedom Caucus rushed to devise a counter-strategy. The few dozen true believers knew that pressure from House leaders and President Donald Trump to fall in line would be immense, and they were intent on not getting boxed in.
In a conference room in the Rayburn House Office Building, the group met that evening and made a secret pact. No member would commit his vote before consulting with the entire group — not even if Trump himself called to ask for an on-the-spot commitment. The idea, hatched by Freedom Caucus vice chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), was to bind them together in negotiations and ensure the White House or House leaders could not peel them off one by one.
Twenty-eight of the group’s roughly three dozen members took the plunge.
Three weeks later, Republican leaders, as many as 25 votes short of passage, were forced to pull their bill from the House floor.
“This is a defining moment for our nation, but it’s also a defining moment for the Freedom Caucus,” said group leader Mark Meadows about a week before the doomed vote was scheduled. “I don’t think there’s a more critical vote for the Freedom Caucus than this.”