Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) are reportedly behind it, with Reps. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) signed on as early members. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who faces federal and House Ethics Committee investigations over allegations of sexual misconduct and illicit drug use, tweeted that he was joining Greene in the caucus.
“We will end wars, stop illegal immigration & promote trade that is fair to American workers,” said Gaetz, who has denied all allegations against him.
A seven-page document that lays out policy positions for the caucus includes nativist language and perpetuates the falsehood that there was widespread fraud and corruption in the 2020 election. According to the document, the group says it seeks to advance former president Donald Trump’s legacy, which means stepping “on some toes” and sacrificing “sacred cows for the good of the American nation.”
In a section on immigration, the document describes the United States as a place with “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and argues that “societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.”
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Representatives for Greene and Gosar did not respond to requests for comment Friday.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Friday seemed to oppose the formation of the caucus, though he did not call it or its members out by name.
“America is built on the idea that we are all created equal and success is earned through honest, hard work. It isn’t built on identity, race, or religion,” McCarthy tweeted. “The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln & the party of more opportunity for all Americans — not nativist dog whistles.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-highest-ranking Republican leader in the House, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), one of Trump’s most vocal critics within the GOP, also denounced what the caucus stood for.
“Republicans believe in equal opportunity, freedom, and justice for all. We teach our children the values of tolerance, decency and moral courage,” Cheney tweeted. “Racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism are evil. History teaches we all have an obligation to confront & reject such malicious hate.”
Kinzinger called for anyone who joined the caucus to be stripped of their committee assignments in Congress.
The formation of the “America First Caucus” and the response to it from McCarthy and Cheney illustrate the growing polarization within the GOP between those who have embraced Trump as the party’s leader and those few who have tried to distance themselves from the former president. McCarthy in particular has attempted to straddle the two factions, criticizing some of Trump’s actions while trying not to alienate his supporters.
The ideas outlined in the “America First Caucus” document indicate just how far to the extreme right some Republican lawmakers stand — and feel comfortable openly expressing such opinions. The document calls to suspend all immigration, saying such pauses are “absolutely essential in assimilating the new arrivals and weeding out those who could not or refused to abandon their old loyalties and plunge head-first into mainstream American society.”
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On infrastructure, the caucus calls for the construction of roads, bridges and buildings that reflect “the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.”
The caucus also criticizes U.S. foreign aid, blasts coronavirus restrictions as an overreaction, and suggests the country’s education system “is actively hostile to the civic and cultural assimilation necessary for a strong nation.”
“As an immigrant, I served on active duty in the US military to defend your right to say stupid stuff. What makes America great is that we don’t judge you based on bloodline, we look at your character,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted.
Lieu said they could take their nativist rhetoric and “shove it.”