Posted: 6:54 pm Tuesday, January 6th, 2015
By Jamie Dupree
A few hours after a group of rebel Republicans tried to block the re-election of House Speaker John Boehner, political punishment was meted out to two Republican lawmakers from Florida, as they were told they would not be re-appointed to the powerful House Rules Committee, whose members are chosen directly by the Speaker.
“It’s the Speaker’s choice,” said a sanguine Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL), who received 12 votes in balloting for Speaker.
“It’s his committee,” Webster added with a smile just off the House floor.
Not only was Webster informed that his services were no longer needed on the Rules panel, but fellow Florida Rep. Richard Nugent was also not picked for the committee in the 114th Congress.
A top aide to Speaker Boehner confirmed that the choice was made by the Speaker himself.
The move was condemned by some of the same Republicans who had encouraged Webster to run for Speaker in their effort to remove Boehner.
#Speaker Boehner kicked Webster and Nugent off Rules Committee 4 voting against Boehner. No room for intimidation tactics. I stand w/them.
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 6, 2015
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) seemed stunned when I gave him the news just off the House floor on Tuesday evening.
“The Rules Committee confirmed that? That’s a very, very serious move for the leadership to make,” King said.
Other lawmakers though said such actions were needed to send a message.
“It’s about time we had some discipline around this place,” said one senior GOP lawmaker.
Webster had been a surprise choice for more conservative lawmakers to rally around, given that his ratings with conservative groups were not very high, and from his extensive time serving in the state legislature in Florida, where he was both Speaker and Senate Majority Leader – more of a member of the GOP Establishment than the Tea Party.
“My philosophy is don’t burn any bridges, don’t make it personal,” Webster told me just off the House floor.
“But that’s not everybody’s philosophy,” he added.
The news about Webster and Nugent raised the possibility of other lawmakers being denied committee assignments and more, as 25 Republican lawmakers refused to support Boehner’s re-election as Speaker.
During the last vote on Tuesday night in the House, I asked others who had voted against Boehner about the possibility of retribution.
“Anything is possible, Jamie,” said Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), who also voted for Webster.
“I need to talk to them,” said Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK). “I need to hear it from them.”
The reaction of other Republicans was almost priceless – as some got a look on their face like their underwear had suddenly shrunk about five sizes.
Message from a Boehner opponent turned supporter
Maybe the most interesting item to come out today was a message written by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), who voted against Boehner in 2013, but voted for him today.
Mulvaney issued a stinging rebuke to those who tried to depose the Speaker, echoing charges from other lawmakers that they bid was driven more by talk radio and publicity, and not one steeled in organization and planning.
This was posted on Mulvaney’s Facebook page:
There was an attempt to oust John Boehner as Speaker of the House today. I didn’t participate in it. That may make some people back home angry. I understand that, but I’ve got some experience with coup attempts against the Speaker, and what I learned two years ago factored heavily in my decision today not to join the mutiny.
First, I learned two years ago that people lie about how they are going to vote. And you cannot go into this kind of fight with people you do not trust. We walked onto the floor two years ago with signed pledges – handwritten promises – from more than enough people to deny Boehner his job. But when it came time to vote, almost half of those people changed their minds – including some of those who voted against Boehner today. Fool me once, shame on you… Today was even worse: there were never enough votes to oust Boehner to begin with. On top of that, some people who had publicly said in the past that they wouldn’t vote for Boehner did just that. This was an effort driven as much by talk radio as by a thoughtful and principled effort to make a change. It was poorly considered and poorly executed, and I learned first-hand that is no way to fight a battle. This coup today was bound to fail. And in fact, it failed worse than I expected, falling 11 votes short of deposing the Speaker. At least two years ago we only failed by six.
I also learned that the Floor of the House is the wrong place to have this battle. The hard truth is that we had an election for Speaker in November – just among Republicans. THAT was the time to fight. But not a single person ran against Boehner. Not one. If they had, we could’ve had a secret ballot to find out what the true level of opposition to John Boehner was. In fact, we could’ve done that as late as Monday night, on a vote of “no confidence” in the Speaker. But that didn’t happen…and at least one of the supposed challengers to Boehner today didn’t even go to the meeting last night. That told me a lot.
Some people wrote me encouraging me to vote for Louie Gohmert. I like Louie, but let’s be clear: Louie Gohmert was – is – never ever going to be Speaker of the House. I respect his passion, but he isn’t a credible candidate. That was proved today by the fact that he got three votes, despite all the national media attention he managed to grab. My colleague who got the most anti-Boehner votes was Daniel Webster of Florida who got 12 votes. I like Daniel. He is a nice guy, and a good thinker…but his lifetime Heritage Action score is 60% (by comparison, mine is 91%). And this was supposed to be the savior of the conservative movement? Would the House really have been more conservative if he had won?
The truth is, there was no conservative who could beat John Boehner. Period. People can ignore that, or they can wish it away, but that is reality.
Some people tried to argue that voting against Boehner would give conservatives leverage, or somehow force him to lead in a more conservative fashion, even if the coup attempt failed. All I can say to that is that the exact opposite happened two years ago: conservatives were marginalized, and Boehner was even freer to work with moderates and Democrats. My guess is that the exact same thing will happen again now. And I fail to see how that helps anything that conservatives know needs to be done in Washington.
I understand people’s frustration and anger over what is happening in Washington. And I also acknowledge that John Boehner may be partly to blame. But this was a fool’s errand. I am all for fighting, but I am more interested in fighting and winning than I am fighting an unwinnable battle.
Finally, the most troubling accusation I have heard regarding the Boehner vote is that I have “sold out” my conservative principles. All I can say is this: take a look at my voting record. It is one of the most conservative in Congress. And I was joined today by the likes of Jim Jordan, Raul Labrador, Trey Gowdy, Mark Sanford, Trent Franks, Tom McClintock, Matt Salmon, Tom Price, Sam Johnson, and Jeb Hensarling. If I “sold out” then I did so joined by some of the most tried and tested conservative voices in Washington.
I can say with 100% confidence that I have done exactly what I said I would do when I came to Washington: fight to cut spending, stop bad legislation, work to repeal Obamacare, and hold the President accountable for his actions. That will never change, and neither will I.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.