The House Freedom Caucus, which is made up of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives, scored a big victory with the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Boehner will remain as Speaker through Friday, October 30, 2015, at which time he will resign as Speaker and relinquish his position in Congress.
It is no secret that the most conservative members of the House of Representatives have been a thorn in the side of Speaker Boehner for virtually his entire tenure as Speaker of the House. Indeed, at times the House Freedom Caucus has shown no appreciation for the fact that a conservative Republican agenda simply cannot be enacted as long as President Obama remains in the White House and Senate Republicans do not have a filibuster proof majority.
Despite the impossibility of enacting a conservative Republican agenda the House Freedom caucus has demanded nothing less, taking out their collective frustrations on Speaker Boehner time and time again. Ironically, while Speaker Boehner has been criticized by conservatives as being a Republican in name only (RINO), several of the members of the House Freedom caucus who serve on the House Judiciary Committee have been anything but conservative on certain votes. For example, when it comes to patent reform at least some self professed Congressional conservatives have decided to side with the Obama Administration, giving Obama corporate supporters everything they want from patent legislation. Why don’t these votes on patent reform call into question the conservative bona fides of Members of Congress?
On June 14, 2015, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Innovation Act by a vote of 24-8. The Innovation Act has been widely criticized as being harmful to small businesses, technology based start-ups, universities and independent inventors, while at the same time being extremely beneficial to a handful of giant corporations that use patented technology, a group that some have dubbed the “infringer lobby.”
Interestingly, Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), and Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-FL) voted in favor of passing the Innovation Act (see Roll Call No. 4 – Final Passage of H.R. 9). Franks, Poe and DeSantis all serve on the House Judiciary Committee and are also members of the House Freedom Caucus. Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) also serves on the House Judiciary Committee and is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, although Jordan did not vote on the Innovation Act in Committee.
At a time when any digression from the conservative orthodoxy draws the ire of the House Freedom Caucus, Franks, Poe and DeSantis voted to change the patent laws in a way favorable to large corporate interests at the expense of start-ups, small businesses and independent inventors. Such a vote on patent reform is anything but conservative. Indeed, the Innovation Act makes it more difficult for innovators to enforce legitimate patent rights. The constant and repeated chipping away for property rights is not something that a true conservative should be in favor of or even tolerate.
Many conservatives have criticized Republicans for going along with the Obama agenda relative to patent reform (see here, here and here). “Our founding fathers understood the importance and sanctity of property rights,” explained Ken Blackwell, a leading conservative commentator who has been calling for conservatives to oppose patent reform. “The constitution directly protects this right in Article 1, Section 8. Today, political expediency and corporate interests are forcing this initiative even though it is unnecessary, and frankly, harmful.”
The major driving force for patent reform has been and continues to be Google, which is widely known to be the largest corporate supporter of the Obama Administration. “The Obama administration is one of Google’s strongest supporters,” says Blackwell. “So much so that there has practically been a revolving door between Google and the White House.”
In fact, many have criticized the Obama Administration as the Google Administration, with dozens of former Google executives serving in top roles within the Obama Administration, including USPTO Director Michelle Lee. Prior to joining the Patent Office Lee was Head of Patents and Patent Strategy at Google.
Why would Republicans line up to support legislation being pushed by a top Obama supporter? Why would Republicans provide President Obama and Google with everything they want in patent reform? If for no other reason than pure politics it seems extraordinarily strange that Republicans would support the Obama/Google agenda on patent reform. It is outright bizarre that any member of the House Freedom Caucus would support the Obama/Google agenda on patent reform.
The House Freedom Caucus has practically demanded a conservative litmus test be applied to anything and everything, except with the notable exception of patent reform. It will be interesting to see if House Freedom Caucus members stand united against patent reform, or whether their brand of conservatism simply does not apply equally across the board to all issues.