CHARLESTON, W.Va. — They’re not official, but the state lawmakers affiliated with the so-called Liberty Caucus made themselves known in the House of Delegates during the 2015 Regular Legislative Session which ended last Saturday.
“We are listening and, in some cases, we’re willing to take the hard road to get things done that the people are really concerned about,” said Delegate Jim Butler (R-Mason, 14). “It’s easy to stay in the center, but we’re willing to do the hard work.”
In all, the five to 15 conservative House Republicans identified as members of the Liberty Caucus, including Butler, make the Constitution their first priority when considering proposed legislation.
“Is it constitutional first? Then also, is it good policy? And then on down the line,” Butler said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Those stands on specific issues often put the Liberty Caucus members to the right of Republican leadership.
“It’s not really an official membership,” said Butler who started a Tea Party branch in Mason County and was first elected to the House in 2012. “Several of us just look at Constitutional issues and freedom as being our priorities.”
Butler identified the failure of the forced pooling bill for mineral rights, which was defeated with a 49-49 House vote on Saturday’s final day of the 2015 Regular Session, as an example of the effects of the Liberty Caucus.
That tie vote included 12 Democrats who’d previously voted for the measure. An earlier vote in the House was 60-40.
Butler said he did not believe those Democrats switched sides to oppose it for philosophical reasons. “I think it was more just a political thing to defeat one of the Speaker’s major pieces of legislation,” Butler said.
House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison, 48) denied that claim earlier on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” He said he changed his vote for an issue he’d supported in the past after polling showed widespread opposition to it.