Fact-checking the Sunday shows

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) , surrounded by reporters, unexpectedly dropped his bid to be House Speaker. (NYT)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) , surrounded by reporters, unexpectedly dropped his bid to be House Speaker. (NYT)

Some of the most conservative members of the U.S. House are being criticized for hijacking the election of John Boehner’s replacement as House speaker.

But are some congressional Republicans going as far as to call for members of the Freedom Caucus to be kicked out of the party?

That’s a claim one member of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, made Sunday on Meet the Press. Brat was debating who the next speaker should be with Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

"I follow the American people. Charlie here wants us to follow, like a caucus or whatever," Brat said. "He wants to kick us out of our conference for voting our conscience."

"I don't want to do that," Dent responded.

"You're on record last week saying it," Brat said.

Seems like a perfect case for fact-checkers.

Brat’s claim that Republicans like Dent want to kick out the Freedom Caucus rates False.

Neither Brat nor his office got back to us with evidence. Dent told us he never made such a statement, but suggested Brat may have been confusing him with California Rep. Devin Nunes, a Republican and Boehner and McCarthy ally.  

"I would strongly encourage those who don’t want to be part of a caucus structure in our own party — they should go form their own party," Nunes told Breitbart.

Dent, for his part, said he’s never endorsed that position.

"I don’t think that’s a good idea. My view on this is you have to work around them," Dent said in an interview with PolitiFact. "I have said the leadership should try to marginalize those individuals, not by excommunicating them or by punishing them. You negotiate a bipartisan agreement and you make them less relevant. That’s what we’ve done."

The record supports Dent. We searched three databases — Lexis Nexis, CQ and Google News — and couldn’t find any instance of Dent saying he wants to expel or punish the Freedom Caucus.

That doesn’t mean Dent is a fan of the Freedom Caucus. He repeatedly calls them "rejectionists" and calls for the party to marginalize them and not "appease" their "unreasonable demands." He said they "fragged" Boehner and McCarthy. And he insinuated that they’re part of the reason why Republicans "don't have 218 votes for a bathroom break."

Jobs picture

Elsewhere, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, appeared on CNN’s State of the Union to discuss a host of issues, including the Democratic presidential primary. At one point, she described this "fact":

"When we had a conservative Republican president we were losing 750,000 jobs a month," Wasserman Schultz said.

That claim rates Mostly True.

Wasserman Schultz was thinking of President George W. Bush and particularly the last few months of his presidency, November 2008 through January 2009. President Barack Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, so it’s reasonable to count that month as part of the Bush legacy.

Using those parameters, information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics backs her up.

Those three months saw the nation lose an average of 752,000 jobs.

If Wasserman Schultz had chosen a longer period, say the last full year, the losses would have averaged about 365,000 per month. The losses would shrink even more if you look at longer periods of time.

A couple of other notes.

Wasserman Schultz didn’t mention that job losses remained at or above the 700,000 mark for the first two months of Obama’s presidency before they began to decline.

And, of course, Wasserman Schultz’s statement implies that conservative Republican policies alone brought about a massive loss of jobs. The reality is more complicated. Some analysts believe that a portion of the blame goes back to policies that enjoyed Democratic support, including changes in financial regulation passed during the Clinton administration.