Freshman Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) says he’s the latest GOP lawmaker to face retaliation for bucking leadership last month and opposing a procedural vote on major trade legislation.
In a letter obtained by The Hill, Mooney accused Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) of deliberately excluding him as a co-sponsor of a bill to help Medicare-eligible diabetes patients gain coverage for glucose monitors.
“I understand that you and other supporters of the [diabetes bill] are concerned about having me as a cosponsor because I voted against … the rule on the Trade Promotion Authority legislation last month,” Mooney wrote Reed in the letter. “I think it is important that Members of Congress be allowed to vote with their conscience without it negatively impacting our ability to work together.”
Speaker John BoehnerJohn Boehner6 reasons 'TrumpCare' flatlined Paul Ryan sells out conservatives with healthcare surrender Matt Schlapp: 5 lessons Trump, Ryan must learn from healthcare debate MORE (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) all received copies of the letter as well.
But Mooney’s assertion that leadership wouldn’t move a bill based on its co-sponsor list “is just plain dumb, and false,” a GOP leadership aide said.
Reed fired back as well, calling Mooney’s allegations “inaccurate and misleading.”
In a short phone call with The Hill, Reed expressed frustration about the Mooney letter and subsequent story. He followed up with a lengthy statement that took direct aim at Mooney, a former state legislator who succeeded Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), now a senator.
“Mr. Mooney’s assertion is incorrect, as other members who voted against the rule have been added to the legislation. I’m disappointed, as I expressed directly to Mr. Mooney personally, that we needed to vet all co-sponsors of our legislation, which is something we do with any bill we submit,” Reed said in his statement.
“I am disappointed that Mr. Mooney chose to pursue this inaccurate and misleading path as stated in his letter. I would hope he would clarify the record to accurately reflect our personal conversations.”
Reed also attacked Mooney for failing to understand the legislative process.
“His actions since coming to Congress have raised concerns among many stakeholders,” Reed said. “Given the challenging nature of getting legislation signed into law, as I have had the benefit of having done, it is critical that every obstacle of the political landscape be minimized to avoid any unnecessary impediments to successfully implementing our proposals on behalf of all Americans.”
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Mooney said it wasn't his intention to imply in his letter that leadership was retaliating against him. And he said he had a good conversation with Reed on the House floor.
“He is still considering my request,” Mooney said. “The point of the letter was to tell him why [the bill] is important to me and my district. At this point, I think he is still considering putting me on the bill.”
But Mooney’s suspicion that he’s been blacklisted isn’t completely unfounded. Some conservative Republicans have complained that leaders have blocked their legislation from the floor after they challenged the top brass.
And other rank-and-file Republicans have privately said they fear their bills may not see floor action if they allow Tea Party insurgents to sign on as co-sponsors.
Mooney, who worked as a legislative aide to Boehner 20 years ago, was one of 34 Republicans who voted against a Boehner-backed rule in June, a move that nearly derailed the trade package.
Boehner and other leaders were furious at the conservative rebels. Three lawmakers were booted from the GOP whip team for voting against the rule. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) was stripped of his subcommittee gavel, though he later got it back after an outcry from conservatives.
Outside groups called on Boehner and his allies to end the punishment of conservative lawmakers.
“Speaker Boehner’s apparent directive to prevent conservatives from co-sponsoring bills that would help their constituents is just the latest example of a failing leadership team,” said David Bossie, president of the conservative group Citizens United. “I urge Congressman Reed to reconsider this petty act of retaliation over a vote of conscience.”
This story was updated at 4:12 p.m. July 15