Friday, January 9, 2015

Bouncing Boehner Went Bust (Why?)

Like a number of conservatives, I was in full campaign mode to Bounce Boehner as House Speaker. I supported Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert at the outset, although I learned that Reps Ted Yoho and Daniel Webster of Florida threw their hats in for the nomination.

I had not heard about Webster until the day of the vote. Believe me: I was burning up the phone calling the different House reps whom I believed would vote for new leadership.

Congressman Steve King of Iowa made a welcome announcement against Boehner, too, but then he nominated Congressman Webster. This was confusing. Why not support Gohmert?

Indeed, I was disappointed that a number of conservative House Reps chose to vote for Boehner again.
Trey Gowdy (R-SC)

Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is one of the staunchest conservatives in Washington. He demanded that his colleagues hold President Obama accountable for his lawlessness. He also called out the frequent failures and frauds of the Obama Administration, including the cabinet staff.

He was not able to make the vote, yet he signaled his intent to vote for Boehner.

He offered the following explanation:

"I would have voted for our Conference nominee, John Boehner. The position of Speaker of the House is a difficult job as evidenced by the fact that so few members seek the position.  Speaker Boehner was approved overwhelmingly by the Conference in November. In fact, not a single other name was placed in nomination."

He cited that no one stepped up earlier in the year to seek the position. Why does it matter that the GOP Conference had decided up front whether to reelected Boehner?

Tom McClintock (R-CA)

Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) explained why this earlier vote necessarily set the stage for the final, formal vote:

The election of the House Speaker is a decision that is made by the House majority caucus.  That decision is then enacted through a formal vote on the House floor by the unanimous action of that majority. 
What I did not realize, or had not taken into account, is that the Democratic members of the House can influence the final Speaker vote. McClintock continued:
The Republican majority voted at its November meeting to re-elect John Boehner as Speaker after no member stepped forward to challenge him.  Some have suggested now shifting that decision from the House Republican Conference to the House floor, where 29 Republicans can combine with Democrats to thwart it.  
Haven't conservatives been complaining that Boehner relies on Democrats to get his votes through the House instead of his fellow Republicans?
Conservatives should beware.  On its worst day, the collective judgment of the Republican majority is much more conservative than that of the overall House membership.  Shattering Republican unity in the election of Speaker is not likely to end with a more conservative alternative, but rather with a coalition of the most liberal House Republicans and House Democrats.  
Really? McClintock explained:
This happened in the California Assembly in 1994.  Dissident Republicans broke with the Republican majority on the vote for Speaker, enlisting the votes of minority Democrats in exchange for a wholesale transfer of power.  Though voters had elected a Republican majority, this coalition effectively gave Democrats control of the Assembly.    

McClintock is right. Even though Republicans had won the California state assembly in 1994, guess what? Democrats retained power. How? The Chicago Tribune reported on the drama in the statehouse that year, in which an embittered moderate Republican, who had lost a coveted state senate run, settled for an assembly seat, but punched back at his Republican colleagues, voting for Democrat Willie Brown, and throwing the Sacramento statehouse into disarray for weeks.

Republicans have to unite around one leader, but allowing the entire floor the final vote on the Speaker can shift the leadership the wrong way. Despite a Republican majority in the CA state assembly in 1994, Democrat Brown remained the House Speaker for five more months , in complete disrespect to the will of California voters. McClintock's reasoning granted more peace of mind. While California Republicans launched a recall, removed the turncoat and elected a loyal Republican, the time and energy taken to rally the troops could have been better spent governing.

Raul Labrador (R-ID)
Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho offered the following reason on his Facebook page:

Today, I made a difficult decision in voting for John Boehner for Speaker of the House. Many constituents from Idaho contacted me to let me know that I should not support him. I want them to know that I did not make this decision lightly. I share the view of the majority of my constituents who are deeply frustrated by the way the House has run the last four years.

In 2013, I led the effort to oust Speaker Boehner from his leadership post. At that time, we had sufficient votes to be successful, but at the last minute several members changed their votes to support Boehner. 

Gohmert cited the same frustration shortfall after the floor vote earlier this week. Speaker votes are crucial, and whipping is not a guarantee of a win.

This year was different – even after 25 Republicans opposed the Speaker, we still needed 12 more votes. The votes were simply not there to defeat the Speaker. I think it is unwise to marginalize yourself when there is no chance of victory, which was the case today.
My vote for Mr. Boehner is not an endorsement of his past leadership. Just as I have done during my first two terms in office, I will continue to fight for the American people and hold our leadership accountable.

I agree with the general theme of these conservative lawmakers. I am not going to shout "RINO!" because they did not get rid of Boehner. Once again, the long-term strategy matters. I must admit, I am pumped up with the idea of getting rid of, or at least reducing the influence of, Establishment politicians. However, it is not enough to get rid of bad lawmakers and leaders. There has to be a long-term plan for better leadership. Three congressmen bring up a crucial point: why didn't someone else announce their interest in the Speakership until the last minute?

Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)

Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) shared his reasons:

“There was an attempt to oust John Boehner as Speaker of the House today.  I didn’t participate in it.

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.  

. . .

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.  

Wow! I had no idea! The voters may have felt betrayed, but Mulvaney actually experienced it. Talk radio is an important vehicle for informing people, and I would not discredit the medium or the conservative activists. Still, outrage is not leadership, and this country needs more of the latter, not the former.

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.  

Mulvaney echoed the same frustrations as Rep. Labrador and McClintock. It's all about picking the right battles.

Some people wrote me encouraging me to vote for Louie Gohmert.  . . 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 lack of coordination from November to January all brought up strong points. Where was the long-term plan to replace Boehner? How would that have played out? Who knows what kind of record or leadership Congressman Webster would have brought to the House. By the way, what is Boeher's record?

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.  

I agree. Mulvaney thrashed my former Congressman, Henry Waxman, in a budget committee hearing. He voted against the Fiscal Cliff deal, too, and went out of his way to explain his opposition.

Although I am frustrated that John Boehner has returned as Speaker of the House for the 114th Congress, I refuse to gut the conservative credentials of the following Congressmen above.

Nor do I intend to stop #MakingDCListen. Neither should you.

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