On the Values Voter Summit stage recently vacated by President Trump, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., took an unusual tack. The Freedom Caucus chairman decried obstructionists, members of Congress he called "duds who have been left in the chamber too long." That's incredibly interesting. And it's more than a bit ironic.
More often than not, it's been Meadows and his Freedom Caucus who have been blamed for obstruction.
Meadows whipped the crowd into a frenzy telling the legislatively frustrated social conservatives that it's time to "eject" obstructionists who "don't get behind this agenda, the ‘America first' agenda." Six months ago, plenty of people would've said that label applied to the Freedom Caucus.
That band of conservatives blew up healthcare the first time around, and they briefly held tax reform hostage by holding up the House budget resolution. Everyone from Speaker Ryan's office to the Wall Street Journal editorial board cursed their name. Even President Trump got fed up tweeting back in March that the Freedom Caucus "have saved Planned Parenthood and Ocare."
Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017
But in both events, that pack of roughly three dozen members eventually got on board, and instead of being slammed as obstructionists they're being cheered as the administration's key allies in Congress. Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might slow walk the agenda, the narrative goes, but the Freedom Caucus wants action and they want it now.
Conservatives seem convinced but it's not clear what the White House thinks. Meadows has certainly made plenty of overtures. Just last week the top House conservative took a shot at his Senate Colleague Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who has been increasingly critical of Trump. "It's easy to be bold when you're not coming back," Meadows told the AP in the polite political equivalent of a brutal curb stomp.
While rabble-rousing is nothing new, this kind is different. The Freedom Caucus is trying rebrand themselves as team players at a moment of gridlock. Judging from the crowd's response to Meadows at the summit, it might be working.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.