“Don’t let it be the anti-Donald Trump bill. Because that’s what it is,” Mulvaney said. “It effectively empowers the establishment wing of both parties. And that’s one of the reasons I think you’ll see some kickback from the Freedom Caucus.”
Rep. John Fleming, another Freedom Caucus founder, who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. David Vitter, said that allowing unlimited coordinated spending by party committees would make it more difficult for a candidate like he was in his first race—an upstart who was not the pick of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He said he would prefer the limits to stay where they are, but that if leaders feel they must do away with them, they should also allow political action committees to spend unlimited sums in coordination with candidates.
“Either uncap everything or uncap nothing,” Fleming said. “What they’re really saying is, 'We get to choose our candidate, and we run our candidate, and we’re going to make sure they have unlimited money.' … If they are given no limits or more limits or more coordination, so should the other organizations.”
That would allow groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has financed antiestablishment candidates and even run ads against McConnell, to keep pace with party committees. These PACs, unlike their spinoff groups called super PACs, can spend in coordination with candidates, but the spending is capped at $5,000 per election.
Party committees can donate only $5,000 per candidate per election, but can spend more in coordination with a candidate. The caps to coordinated spending vary state-to-state based on population, but range from $48,000 for House candidates to some $20 million for presidential candidates. McConnell, however, is trying to remove the caps outright, which would give party committees an advantage over not only PACs, but also super PACs, which can spend unlimited sums on ads and other spending, yet are not allowed to coordinate with candidates. Political party committees can also spend unlimited sums in independent expenditures if the spending is not coordinated.
The issue marks the latest rift in the fraught relationship between GOP leaders and outsiders within their party. Leaders have long complained that some conservatives do little to fundraise for the party and do not pay their dues to the NRCC. Alternately, members of the Freedom Caucus have complained that the establishment has withheld donations or even targeted them with ads or other spending.
Yet just how influential the Freedom Caucus can be on the issue remains to be seen. Many members often vote against omnibus bills to begin with, limiting their negotiating power as this package is being put together. Meanwhile, the group is also seeking provisions on the omnibus dealing with Obamacare, the Syrian refugee crisis, and Planned Parenthood, so it’s not clear they would support an omnibus bill even if it does block McConnell’s rider if it did not also include riders dealing with those issues.