How Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry gained the potential power to influence a federal investigation involving himself

To gain enough votes to claim victory, Kevin McCarthy made many key concessions to Republican Congressman Scott Perry and the Trump-aligned House Freedom Caucus he heads.

A close-up photo of Scott Perry speaking into a microphone.

FILE - Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., questions Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 28, 2022. Perry says his cellphone was seized Tuesday, Aug. 9, by FBI agents carrying a search warrant. The circumstances surrounding the seizure were not immediately known. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

This story originally appeared on WITF. 

It took 15 rounds of voting over three days – the most in 164 years – to elect Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker last week.

To gain enough votes to claim victory, he made many key concessions to Republican Congressman Scott Perry and the Trump-aligned House Freedom Caucus he heads.

Its 52 members make up just 12 percent of the chamber, but roughly 20 of them steadfastly opposed McCarthy’s bid.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Perry, whose district includes Dauphin County, as well as portions of Cumberland and York counties, led the way.

“Everybody came here because they said to their constituents, ‘This town is broken and I want to fix it,’” he said on the House floor while nominating Florida Republican Byron Donalds for Speaker. “Well, how are you going to fix it if you come to this town and just step right in line and keep doing the same things that everybody has done before you?”

He criticized House Republicans for working too closely with their Democratic counterparts.

“We’re trying to change the trajectory of Washington, D.C., so that we actually fight the left and quit ending up with everything the left wants after people spend their hard-earned money supporting Republican candidates and then being disappointed time and time again,” Perry told FOX News.

Through the long course of repeated votes for speaker, Perry voted for Donalds – as well as Freedom Caucus members Jim Jordan and Andy Biggs.

But before the 11th round of voting, Perry met with McCarthy in “good faith,” emerged with a change of heart, and announced his support for the California Republican.

How did McCarthy finally earn Perry’s vote?

Perry tweeted out a list of promises he received – including ending all COVID-19 mandates and creating a House Select Subcommittee to investigate federal law enforcement for what he calls, “weaponization against the American people.”

He specifically mentioned the FBI, which seized his phone last year, pursuant to a court order.

The Department of Justice is investigating events surrounding Donald Trump’s attempts to remain in power – which culminated with the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Perry’s name came up repeatedly throughout the House Jan. 6 Select Committee’s public hearings and final report for his alleged roles in assisting Trump. Perry refused a subpoena to testify before the committee.

Chris Mottola, a Republican political strategist, said Perry may have been motivated to weaken the power of the House speaker.

“All politics is out of the Senate Majority and the House Majority’s office. That’s where the universe rotates, and the Freedom Caucus believes that this is not the best way to run government,” he said. “So, there was a reform aspect of it. But more importantly, it gives more power to the representative.”

Mottola said Perry gambled with his political future by going toe-to-toe against the newly elected House Speaker.

“All politics is about power. And if you try to take power, if you do not succeed,” Mottola said. “Chances are that Speaker McCarthy [would have] put Perry’s office somewhere out near the Dulles airport, and he would be on the subcommittee in charge of chicken plucking and paper clips.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

With a speaker in place, Perry told ABC’s This Week he would not recuse himself from any committees – even if there might be a conflict of interest.

He could be assigned to the subcommittee he proposed, or the House Ethics panel – which has been asked to sanction Perry for refusing to testify before the Jan. 6 Committee.

“So should everybody in Congress that disagrees with somebody be barred from the oversight and investigative powers that Congress has?” Perry said. “I get accused of all kinds of things every single day, as does every member that serves in the public eye. But that doesn’t stop you from doing your job. It is our duty, and it is my duty.”

Some Republicans are divided over the congressman’s recent actions

David Brinton is a Republican Committeeman in Fairview Township, York County, who was Perry’s Chief of Staff when he served in the state House in 2006.

He said Perry’s decision to force more than a dozen House votes makes the GOP look disorganized – which could make it harder to recruit new voters.

“They just don’t believe that you can lead, or that your candidates are the better candidates, because of… whatever source of media that they consume,” Brinton said. “And that can hurt candidates down the ticket, who are also out there working to get elected.”

Joel Sears is a York Suburban School District board member who ran for the state House in 2016 as a Republican.

He said he supports Perry’s moves because he won a concession that now requires 72 hours for House members to read a bill before it’s put to a vote.

“I’m hopeful that that’ll help shine some light on some of the legislation and maybe give us an opportunity to see some of the shenanigans that are played in legislative closed-door sessions,” he said.

Earlier this week, Perry spoke before the House voted to create the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government – part of the deal to get his vote.

“How many more times do we have to say ‘I told you so’ before you will recognize the overwhelming power and the abuse of power by this federal government? And will you ever do anything about it?” Perry said.

The resolution passed by a straight party-line vote 221-211 – one of the first actions by the new GOP majority.

Perry has long stayed on the national sidelines, but after comfortably winning re-election to his sixth term, he has increased his power and raised his profile – all while facing increasing questions over his role in the attempt to subvert the democratic process.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal