‘Liberty Republicans’ and an evolving GOP

NH Business Review
Published: 8/30/2021 5:58:48 PM

In a taped interview in June, Gov. Chris Sununu addressed what he called at the time “squabbles” within the New Hampshire Republican Party arising from the growing presence of libertarians within the caucus in the New Hampshire House.

“The Libertarians are not Republicans,” Sununu said flatly. “They have their own party, their own place. Libertarians are not Republicans. Okay? I know a lot of them like to sign up as Republicans and pass themselves off as Republicans,” he continued. “But, they’re not. Not even remotely.”

Call them what he will, they are the very same lawmakers who control the House Republican caucus and played a strong hand in the state budget Sununu has called “transformational,” “historic” and “a win for every citizen and family in this state.”

The annual “Liberty Rating” compiled by the NH Liberty Alliance, confirms the dominance of those who some call the “Liberty Republicans.”

The rating scores how the 400 members of the House and 24 members of the Senate voted on a tranche of selected bills – 49 in the House and 25 in the Senate. The system applies an opaque formula with a factor, positive or negative, for each vote and adds a weight for sponsoring and shepherding a bill through the process to calculate a letter grade for every legislator.

Altogether, 150 representatives scored “A ” and another 45 scored “B” – all of them Republicans – by voting with the alliance on between 87% and 100% of 49 tracked bills. Among Republicans, only eight representatives received the lowest score of “C” for those voting with the alliance on between 50 and 60% of votes.

In other words, 195 members of the Republican caucus – which numbered 213 when the session began and 211 – when it ended, aligned themselves closely with the alliance.

Little wonder that House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, who moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project and an open Libertarian, touted the unity among House caucus members in pursuing its legislative agenda and carrying what – either cuing or echoing the governor – he also called a “transformational” budget.

Tension with governor

Of the 177 Democrats, 18 were rated “D” and 24 “F” while the other 135 were graded “CT,” or “constitutional threat,” and “considered unfaithful to their oath of office to uphold the New Hampshire Constitution and the principle of liberty.”

By contrast, no senator received an “A” grade. Eight of the 14 Republicans rated “B,” with one “B+”, by voting with the alliance on at least 80% of the selected bills while the other six who strayed on at least 30% of votes were graded “C+”. Likewise, seven of the 10 democratic Senators were graded “CT” while two rated “F” and one “D”.

The alliance describes “pro-liberty” bills as those protecting individual freedom and promoting personal responsibility.

“Anti-liberty” bills, according to the alliance, displace voluntary individual choice with compulsory government regulation and compel people and businesses to pay for policies they may not willingly support.

The bills tracked by the alliance included measures to trim the governor’s emergency powers as well as reverse or forgive penalties levied for breaching them.

A half-dozen bills loosened restrictions on the possession and use of firearms, including one prohibiting the state from enforcing federal regulations imposed by executive order.

Other bills sought to withhold state support from and impose state supervision on municipalities. Among these was a bill that would deprive municipalities of the authority to enact local ordinances on subjects not enumerated by a statute originated in 1846 and instead would require them to be enacted by the Legislature. Another bill sought to strip public officials of immunity for actions taken in good faith while acting within the scope of their authority and responsibilities.

At the same time, members of the House Republican caucus chafed at the governor’s proposed budget, particularly his family medical leave program and proposed spending level, and with enough dissidents among their number, threatened adoption of the budget until the 11th hour.

Tension between the Republican governor and the Liberty Republicans has marked Sununu’s second term, peaking when protesters, chafing at his emergency orders to tackle COVID-19, took to the streets and picketed his home. And in December, three dozen citizens, six state representatives among them, presented a bizarre letter discordantly echoing the Declaration of Independence, that branded the governor a tyrant and demanded the dissolution of the state.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.

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