By John Feehery - 01/15/13 12:48 AM EST
If the vote for Speaker on opening day confirmed anything, it confirmed that simple fact. By having a dozen of his Republican colleagues either vote against him or not vote at all, John Boehner just barely squeaked by in his bid for a second term for Speaker.
The vote against Boehner wasn’t a vote against the Speaker’s actual performance. By all accounts, Boehner has done yeoman’s work leading the House under what can only be called difficult circumstances.
Boehner should invite the 12 who voted against him to leave the GOP. He should bar them from attending any Republican Conference meetings. He should strip them of all committee assignments. He should instruct the NRCC to view those seats to be held in the hands of non-Republicans, and find candidates to run for them. He should instruct Republican allies on the outside — business groups, corporate PACS, trade associations, the Chamber of Commerce — to cease to give these members any campaign contributions. The Speaker should instruct the Appropriations Committee to deny all spending requests made by any of these 12 members. These members shouldn’t be allowed to travel on any congressional delegation trips.
They aren’t Republicans. They shouldn’t be allowed to masquerade as Republicans.
The fact of the matter is that the 12 who voted against Boehner are not likely to vote for anything that most Republicans want to get done. They probably won’t vote for any rules to govern debate. They can’t be counted on to vote for any appropriations bills. They won’t vote to extend the debt ceiling. They won’t take any tough votes ever. Instead, they will pontificate about how fiscally responsible they are, just as they make it easier for House Democrats to play a bigger role in all legislative achievements. The fact is that on must-pass legislation, Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy have to get the votes from somewhere. When the hard-liners balk, the leadership is forced to turn to the minority.
The 12 who voted against Boehner can start their own party. They can call themselves the Know-Nothings or the Tea Party or the Radical Republicans or whatever they want. What they can’t call themselves is Republican, because if Boehner handles this right, they won’t be part of the Republican Conference anymore.
And if John Boehner’s Republican Conference won’t support him as he kicks the rebels out of the party, then he should give up his Speakership and run for minority leader. Because if the Republican Conference won’t back John Boehner on this effort to make the party stronger, it won’t be a majority party for long.
Republicans will only be effective in the next two years if they remain united. But they will not remain united as long as the 12 members who voted against the Republican choice for Speaker remain in the Republican Conference.
Boehner should invite them to form their own party and then tell the rest of his colleagues that they either hang together in the 113th Congress, or they will all hang separately.
Former Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Texas) once said that he would rather have a one-vote majority than a hundred-vote majority, chiefly because it led to greater cohesion.
John Boehner should put Rayburn’s dictum to the test.
Republicans can only find their way when they rid themselves of the Know-Nothings within their ranks.
Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com