U.S. Rep. Scott Perry elected head of Freedom Caucus. What the group does and why it matters

Candy Woodall
Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, a York County Republican who gained national attention this year for objecting to Pennsylvania's electoral votes in a ransacked chamber on Jan. 6 and aiding former President Donald Trump's failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, is taking the helm of the conservative Freedom Caucus as Republicans aim to win back the House. 

The Freedom Caucus could have an influential role in picking the next House speaker if Republicans win next year's midterm elections. 

But to have that power and responsibility, Perry will first have to win re-election in Pennsylvania in 2022, when Trump won't be on the ballot and the lines of his Congressional district have yet to be redrawn. 

Perry has been part of the Freedom Caucus since it formed in 2015, and the group confirmed Monday night he will replace Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona on Jan. 1.

"Since the establishment of the House Freedom Caucus, Scott Perry has been an essential voice," Biggs said in a statement. "I am confident that he will continue to hold the establishment accountable and demand that Republicans 'do what they said they would do.'"

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., on Monday was elected chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. He will begin leading the caucus on Jan. 1. In this file photo from Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, Perry takes a question from a reporter about the infrastructure bill that was making its way through Congress.

Perry seems confident in his reelection next November and that he will be able to continue leading the conservative caucus. 

"For the past six years, I have stood shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of the Freedom Caucus as we have tirelessly fought to hold the line to promote liberty, safety and prosperity for Americans," Perry said in a statement. "I am grateful to continue to carry the torch for these champions of freedom."

Perry wanted to lead the caucus previously, but members worried his district was too competitive. He ended up defeating Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a York County Democrat, by 7 percentage points. 

DePasquale is eyeing another run and said a 2022 campaign would be different in multiple ways: There's Perry's public record on Jan. 6; it wouldn't be a presidential year; and door-to-door campaigning would likely make a comeback now that there's a COVID vaccine. 

The biggest of those is what happened on one of the darkest days in American history, he said. 

"I think January 6th changed everything," DePasquale said. 

But political analysts say historical trends may be stronger than the memory of Jan. 6, and Republicans may be likely to win the House and Senate simply because a Democrat is in the White House. History shows the president's party typically loses the first midterm after an election.

If Republicans win and Perry is re-elected, the York County congressman would have an influential role in picking the next House speaker. 

"The reality is there's a year until the 2022 midterms, and a year is a long time in politics," Terry Madonna, a veteran political analyst in Pennsylvania and political fellow at Millersville University, said.

"The 2024 presidential election is even further away. Anything can happen between now and then."

2022 race:Eugene DePasquale says he's moving closer to a rematch against U.S. Rep. Scott Perry

What's next for U.S. Rep. Scott Perry?:How he became embroiled in bid to overturn Trump's loss

Report:Perry, Mastriano had key roles in Trump effort to overturn 2020 election

Candy Woodall is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Pennsylvania Capital Bureau. She can be reached at 717-480-1783 or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.

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