The Dirty Dozen: Twelve thorns in Speaker Boehner’s side

House Republican leaders had an extremely difficult time uniting their members in 2011, but some were far more exasperating than most. 

But surprisingly, the most consistent GOP defectors during the last year were not freshmen, according to an analysis conducted by The Hill. 

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Veteran rank-and-file Republicans, not members of the historic class of 2010, have proven to be a greater challenge to keep in line. 

The Hill’s review found that only two of the 12 biggest defectors in the House Republican Conference are freshmen: Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.) and Jeff Duncan (S.C.). 

The other 10 are Reps. Ron Paul (Texas), Timothy Johnson (Ill.), Connie Mack (Fla.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Tom Graves (Ga.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Steve King (Iowa), Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Joe Wilson (S.C.). All 12 legislators consistently opposed their leaders at key moments during the House GOP’s first year back in the majority since 2006. 

While dealing with a Democratic

-controlled White House and Senate, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeatedly told his 242-member conference that he needs the strongest vote possible on major legislation in order to strengthen his hand in bicameral negotiations. 

This summer, Boehner personally lobbied GOP members to support his initial deficit-reduction measure. Despite the personal appeals, he couldn’t get the votes. The next morning, Boehner told his colleagues, ““I love you all … I love some of you a little more than others today.” 

A revised version of the legislation (the Budget Control Act of 2011, or BCA) subsequently passed the House. 

The bills reviewed in The Hill’s analysis included: An eleventh-hour temporary funding measure to stave off a government shutdown, the enacted fiscal 2011 spending bill, the BCA, the enacted BCA of 2011, two separate 2012 appropriations conference reports, the payroll tax cut/unemployment extension/doc fix House bill, extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), reauthorizations of certain provisions of the Patriot Act and patent reform. 

A breakdown of the 12 defectors follows. 

• Timothy Johnson (Ill.). The Illinois lawmaker, who is facing a challenging reelection, broke with his leadership on nine of the 10 measures studied. (He voted yes on patent reform.) The six-term lawmaker, rarely seen without a phone to his ear or dialing up a constituent in his district, said he is proud of his record of “independence.” 

Johnson cited his communication with constituents when asked about the defections. He told The Hill that both parties have a problem that “they talk to each other with Beltway talk. They have their own lingo. They don’t communicate … with the people back on Main Street.” 

• Connie Mack (Fla.). The Sunshine State Republican isn’t shy about voting against GOP leaders. He was a firm no on Boehner’s initial deficit-reduction plan, despite intense whipping on that bill. The Senate hopeful only supported his leadership on the payroll tax extension measure that included a provision requiring President Obama to make a decision on the Keystone pipeline by Feb. 21.

• Tom McClintock (Calif.). McClintock backed the bill that averted a government shutdown last spring. Otherwise, the fiscal hawk resisted attempts to win his support for legislation to raise the debt ceiling and extend the payroll tax cut. 

• Ron Paul (Texas). The libertarian presidential contender has missed a fair amount of votes while on the hustings, including three of the votes measured in The Hill review. Paul did not vote on the 2011 continuing resolution, the first of two 2012 appropriations conference reports and the payroll tax cut measure. He refused to budge on intensely whipped items, including the BCA, FISA surveillance law extension and the bill to prevent a government shutdown. Paul’s inclusion on this list is not surprising. Republican leaders don’t even bother whipping him, assuming he will vote no.

• Justin Amash (Mich.). The freshman from Michigan, who is a big fan of Paul, routinely votes against leadership. Amash is a vocal critic of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

On the eve of a tense House vote on Boehner’s debt bill, Amash told his followers, “I cannot support an increase in the debt limit without the passage of a major structural reform to government, such as a well-structured balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.”

•Paul Broun (Ga.). With the exception of voting for the payroll tax cut, the lawmaker opposed his leadership on nine of the 10 votes. Broun is facing a primary against former Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.). 

• Tom Graves (Ga.). Graves, who won a special election in 2010 before the November wave, joined Broun and Mack in opposing nine of the 10 bills, with the exception of the payroll tax cut extension. Graves, who was appointed to the powerful Appropriations Committee, bucked his committee chairman on spending measures.

•Jason Chaffetz (Utah). The ambitious Chaffetz opposed his leaders on eight of the 10 bills, supporting only the payroll tax cut extension and the extension of FISA surveillance laws. 

• Steve King (Iowa). The Tea Party favorite voted against all but two of the 10 items included in the study. King supported extending the FISA provisions and portions of the Patriot Act. 

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• Michele Bachmann (Minn.). Joining Paul on the presidential campaign trail, Bachmann missed votes on the first of two 2012 spending conference reports and the payroll tax cut measure, but when she did vote, it was decisively against her leaders. The exceptions were national security measures (FISA and Patriot Act) on which the Intelligence Committee member voted “aye.” There are more than a few Republican members who wouldn’t be disappointed if Bachmann opts not to run for reelection.

•Jeff Duncan (S.C.). The freshman lawmaker supported his leadership in extending FISA and the payroll tax cut. He opposed them on the other eight items. 

Duncan told The Hill that “at the end of the day, I have to stop and consider: Did I do everything I could to lessen the negative impact of big government for my children? … That’s why I have consistently had to oppose bills that continued to spend ever greater amounts of borrowed money.” 

• Joe Wilson (S.C.). He opposed his leaders at important junctures throughout the year, primarily on fiscal matters. The ardent defense hawk supported the extension of FISA and the Patriot Act, but opposed them on the other items, including trade legislation.