The 2023 legislative session of the South Carolina General Assembly began with major issues from the very first day for the Republican House Caucus. In a rushed first day session, newly elected representatives were handed a three page contract to sign that would simply ‘pledge loyalty’ to the Republican party. They were told to quickly sign the document so the session could continue and many members signed without question (or reading of what was placed in front of them.) Multiple members of the South Carolina Freedom Caucus, however, began to read the details of this contract and announced they would not sign it after observing some alarming constraints. This loyalty oath, which was being pushed by newly appointed “Republican” majority leader Davey Hiott of Pickens County and S.C. speaker pro tempore Tommy Pope, outlined several restrictions for Republican caucus members including endorsing or campaigning in the primaries for a candidate challenging a GOP incumbent.
As we observed in the 2022 primaries, similar language is repeated between county GOPs–including (but certainly not limited to) Kershaw and Sumter–where the GOP chairs often speak of the “unwritten rule” to not allow candidates challenging GOP incumbents to speak to their county GOP constituents.
This loyalty oath presented to house members also bars them from posting photos of the House electronic voting board on social media and discussing what happens privately before voting occurs.
This story has hit national news, including a segment on Glenn Beck.
There are 19 Freedom Caucus members from the House, and less than that have held out from signing this loyalty oath. However, the number of how many are still holding out is unconfirmed.
On the first day of the legislative session, all Republican House lawmakers were supposed to attend a Republican Caucus Luncheon at the Palmetto Club, an exclusive restaurant in Downtown Columbia that is often used by elites and politicians. Newly elected Representative Thomas Beach of Anderson County was one of those lawmakers who were supposed to attend. Down the hall leading to the room where the luncheon was taking place, Majority Leader Davey Hiott was rigidly standing in front of the door. When Representative Beach approached, Hiott asked if he had signed the oath. Knowing his answer, Hiott raised his arms, physically blocking Beach from the luncheon and stated that Beach could not enter.
In efforts to not be completely unreasonable, Hiott did offer Rep. Beach the ability to still be a part of the luncheon. If he bought his way in by paying $5,000 to the Republican Caucus, of course.
Even though Representative Thomas Beach, along with the rest of the Freedom Caucus members signed a pledge to the Republican Party when they filed to run for their seats, it still isn’t enough for the Republican Caucus.
Newly elected Representative Joe White of Newberry County stated the following to FITSNews Friday afternoon:
“One of our three ‘God Given,’ Constitutionally guaranteed unalienable rights is the right to ‘Liberty,’ I will NEVER give or sign that sacred right away. Read into that whatever you like. At this point I am not allowed to attend South Carolina Statehouse Republican meetings (caucuses).”
Voting will be taking place among caucus members as to whether or not the Freedom Caucus members that have refused to take this loyalty oath should be removed. It will take a 2/3rds majority vote for the removals to succeed.
What can you do? Well, I’m SO glad you asked.
- Contact Davey Hiott and ask why he won’t allow members of the Freedom Caucus to have lunch with Republicans. I’d suggest other adding things as well when you call/write him, but I will leave that up to your discretion.
- Contact your Republican House lawmakers and tell them to oppose the removal of any Freedom Caucus member. While you’re at it, ask them why they are not a part of it if they truly are “conservative”
- Come out and use your voice on Legislative Day at the Capitol on January 17th beginning at 8:30am. Lawmakers will be beginning the second week of session and they need to see who they are accountable to. Learn more here.
I’ll see you on the 17th! Until then, let’s get busy.