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Freedom Caucus seeks to unite 'constitutionally conservative' Montana lawmakers

 Sen. Theresa Manzella (R) - Hamilton
Freddy Monares
UM Legislative News Service/File photo
Sen. Theresa Manzella (R) - Hamilton

Hardline Montana House and Senate conservatives have formed a new caucus in the Legislature modeled after the U.S. House Freedom Caucus.

Montana’s Freedom Caucus was created through collaboration with state legislators and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, who is a member of the similarly named national group.

In Washington, D.C., members of the House Freedom Caucus are generally known to be among the most conservative and hardline Republicans. In recent days, the caucus has made national headlines for votes blocking Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the speakership.

Montana Sen. Theresa Manzella, from Hamilton, is the state caucus chair. She says Rosendale asked her to organize the caucus, which included finding the state’s most “constitutionally conservative” legislators to join.

“And then they went through a very stringent vetting process, both their voting record, as well as their personal life," Manzella said.

Prior to announcing their formation, the Montana Freedom Caucus traveled to Washington for two days of what Manzella refers to as extensive training. Fourteen legislators have announced their membership in the group, but there may be more because members can remain anonymous.

“People are given the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to share their membership and their participation in the Freedom Caucus or not," Manzella said.

Wyoming and Idaho also launched state freedom caucuses this week, joining eight other states, including Montana, as part of the national State Freedom Caucus Network.

The network, launched in part by former Trump administration Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, started in 2021 and provides financial and administrative support to the statehouse caucuses.

Manzella says the group is still deciding their priorities to pursue this session and plans to publish them soon.

Copyright 2023 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Ellis Juhlin