By Molly K. Hooper - 03/12/13 12:43 AM EDT
Conservative House lawmakers are threatening to torpedo bills that violate the so-called “Hastert Rule.”
The warning, delivered Monday by two right-leaning rank-and-file members, puts more pressure on Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) and his lieutenants to only pass bills that attract the support of “the majority of the majority.”
GOP Arizona Reps. Matt Salmon and David Schweikert implored fellow Republicans to vote no on party-backed procedural measures when leadership intends to pass bills that are opposed by most GOP legislators.
In an op-ed in Monday’s The Washington Times, Salmon wrote, “From this point forward, I will vote against the rule for bills that increase spending without offsetting spending cuts ... if House leadership brings any more bills to the floor without first securing the support from the majority of the GOP conference, I will take the same action.”
He added that “if enough of my conservative colleagues in the House join me, we can unilaterally put an end to the growth of government that is moving us closer to Greece-like fiscal calamities.”
Later in the day, Schweikert, one of four lawmakers ousted from plum committee assignments after the 2012 election, released a “Dear Colleague” memo making the same argument.
Noting that he has “never voted against a rule” and hopes he never has to, Schweikert stated that the “criteria laid out by Matt Salmon represent a benchmark of how I would make my decisions were I to vote against a rule.”
House GOP leaders have already passed three bills this year — the “fiscal cliff” bill, Hurricane Sandy relief and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization — that were approved with less than a majority of the Republican Conference.
It is unclear whether Republicans will abide by the Hastert Rule on upcoming votes on guns, immigration and the debt ceiling. Securing a majority of the majority on these thorny issues will be extremely difficult.
Boehner last week said he doesn’t plan to make a habit of passing bills though the lower chamber that lack the backing of a GOP majority: “It’s not a practice I would expect to continue long-term.”
Club for Growth President Chris Chocola issued a release Monday backing Salmon, saying, “Fiscal conservatives should use all the tools at their disposal to stop bad legislation, including voting against the rule.”
This is a growing headache for Boehner because most, if not all, Democrats routinely vote against the rule to bring a bill to the floor — even if they back the measure.
One notable exception to this pattern occurred on the VAWA rule, which was unanimously supported by Democrats.
More than 15 defections on a rule could kill a House GOP rule, along with the underlying bill.
Last week, 16 Republicans voted against the rule on a bill that would avert a government shutdown. That vote was not close, however, because 17 Democrats missed that roll call.
In 2010, after winning back control of the House, Boehner said he would not resurrect the Hastert Rule.
“I’m going to run the House my way,” Boehner said at the time. “I don’t think we need to just set up hard rules and hard walls that get in the way of doing the will of the American people.”
Although he supported last week’s rule, Schweikert contends the GOP Conference must take on leadership if necessary.
Schweikert wrote in the “Dear Colleague” letter that his conference is “united against President Obama’s scare tactics on sequestration, the debt limit, and taxes. We can continue this trend only if we honor the Hastert Rule and bring bills to the floor that enjoy majority support among our Conference.”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) told The Hill that it is possible that more GOP lawmakers would look to influence the outcome of major legislation by voting against rules, as happened in the mid-1990s.
“That is one thing that makes the class of 2010 different than the class of ’94 — they took down rules and we never did,” said Huelskamp, who was removed from two committees by House GOP leaders.
Huelskamp noted that garnering enough votes is not that difficult, especially when a handful of GOP lawmakers have their sights set on running for the Senate in Georgia.
Following last week’s vote on the government funding measure, conservative activist Erick Erickson of RedState.com distributed an email citing the creation of a “Conservative Fight Club,” lauding the lawmakers who opposed leadership.
“RedState and other conservatives and the media should take notice of the Conservative Fight Club shaping up in the House of Representatives,” he wrote.
“There are ten members of the Conservative Fight Club. They are the nine members of the House Republican Conference who voted against the rule on the continuing resolution and voted against John Boehner for Speaker plus one guy who voted against [the] rule and was the ring leader the last time the GOP took out a Speaker.”