REVENGE: BOEHNER'S FOES BOOTED FROM POSTS FOR EXCERCISING CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT
Boehner takes revenge
Foes find themselves losing plum committee posts.
John Boehner is getting revenge.
After he secured his third term as speaker Tuesday afternoon, losing 25 votes on the House floor to some relative-unknown members of the Republican Conference, Boehner moved swiftly to boot two of the insurgents from the influential Rules Committee. That could be just the start of payback for the speaker’s betrayers, who might see subcommittee chairmanships and other perks fall away in the coming months.
Boehner’s allies have thirsted for this kind of action from the speaker, who say he’s let people walk all over him for too long and is too nice to people who are eager to stab him in the back. The removal of Florida Reps. Daniel Webster and Rich Nugent from Rules was meant as a clear demonstration that what Boehner and other party leaders accepted during the last Congress is no longer acceptable, not with the House’s biggest GOP majority in decades.
The reason for dethroning the two Florida Republicans was simple: Webster ran against Boehner for speaker, distributing fliers outlining his candidacy and talking about how he would better adhere to the House rules than the Ohio Republican.
Nugent supported his fellow Floridian in the quixotic endeavor, which garnered the support of 12 lawmakers. Webster didn’t even give Boehner a heads-up that he was running, although leadership was aware early Tuesday morning that it could happen.
With Webster openly offering himself as an alternative to Boehner, the GOP leadership thought seats on the Rules Committee were a plum that the pair no longer deserved. It didn’t take more than a few hours for Webster – a legendary former Florida statehouse speaker and state Senate majority leader – and Nugent to find themselves on the outside of a power structure they were once very much a part of.
Members are already making noises about reversing any punitive action by Boehner and the leadership, although the speaker’s allies warn that further retaliation could be on the way.
The House Republican leadership is carefully reviewing the list of members who voted against the speaker and those who opposed a procedural motion in December on the so-called “crominibus,” the $1.1 trillion spending package to keep the government open through to September. Top Republican sources suggested that the process could take months to unfold.
For example, Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell got a slot on the Appropriations Committee, key for his Virginia Beach district, yet voted for Webster, a move that infuriated Boehner loyalists. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) had gotten into the good graces of top Republicans, then turned his back on Boehner in favor of Webster. Particular ire was directed toward Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), who had a dinner Monday night where the uprising was discussed. Dozens more Republicans could face a backlash.
“This is one of those cases where the fire has only gotten more intense,” said a GOP lawmaker. “More attention has been brought to this now. It’s not going to away.”
The rebels don’t think they deserve anything but respect from the leadership and their colleagues, and none suggested they were sorry about publicly seeking to oust Boehner.
They are also aware that a price may have to be paid, especially with Boehner having more leeway on votes thanks to his enlarged majority.
Tuesday’s tally brought “double the number” of anti-Boehner votes from 2013, noted Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), one of the most vocal thorns in Boehner’s side.
Huelskamp said he was unhappy that “only three of the freshmen class” voted against Boehner.
Huelskamp said he was denied a chance to get his seat back on the Agriculture Committee because of his opposition to Boehner. The Kansas Republican was removed from the panel in 2012.
“I am already hearing from my colleagues, and myself, about retaliation against those who voted their conscience, their constituents, their principles, to change the status quo,” Huelskamp said. “My colleagues fully expect that. That’s what they expect out of this leadership team.”
Rep. Steve King, the Iowa Republican who voted against Boehner, said, “If you cannot vote your conscience … then it’s clearly a dysfunctional system here.”
In almost every sense, Boehner worked much harder for this re-election than he did in 2012. Two years ago, the Ohio Republican was caught off-guard by a small pocket of resistance to his speakership. He knew some hardliners didn’t like him or his laid-back leadership style, but doubted they would spurn him publicly.
So in order to make sure there were no surprises this time around, Boehner called nearly every House Republican during the last three months asking for their support. He made calls from Washington, continued while in Florida for the holidays, and resumed Monday as soon as he landed back in D.C.
His whip count looked very solid heading into the week,GOP insiders said, and on Sunday evening, his team felt like they would easily notch a win.
Yet as the week unfolded, a growing number of Republicans announced their opposition to Boehner, and the GOP leadership became “jumpy,” according to one source. They were afraid the opposition would swell, and feared there was little they could do about it. “They thought it was maybe eight or nine ‘no’ votes, then it really started to go south fast,” said one lawmaker who was counting votes for leadership.
On Monday night, Boehner met with Meadows, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona. Salmon, who has railed against some of Boehner’s decisions in managing the House, supported the speaker’s campaign. At that point, the leadership felt that the tide was turning in Boehner’s direction.
But the meetings continued almost up until Tuesday’s vote – and Boehner turned several more members in his direction. Earlier in the day, just before the speaker roll call began on the floor, Boehner met privately with Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador.
Labrador skipped the 2013 vote, but supported Boehner on Tuesday.
Boehner and his team are firmly convinced that, despite 25 defections, they have a firmer grip on power than ever before. They say their “working majority” – members whom Boehner can work with – is around 220 members.
“We don’t need these fringe guys as much as we did anymore,” said a GOP leadership aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We can let them walk on certain bills, and it just won’t matter. That gives us breathing room.”