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Gohmert bucks leaders on military pay

A Republican lawmaker is taking on his own party leaders, claiming they played politics with military pay during the shutdown showdown earlier this year.

With the possibility of another government shutdown attracting headlines this week, Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection 21 Republicans vote against awarding medals to police who defended Capitol GOP's Gohmert, Clyde file lawsuit over metal detector fines MORE (R-Texas) wants to make sure that checks for military officers are never used as a bargaining chip.

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Gohmert’s “Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011” has 203 co-sponsors representing both sides of the aisle. 

With his bill stuck in two committees, Gohmert this summer circulated a discharge petition to force action on the floor. 

It is highly unusual for a member of the majority party to take such an action. And House leaders frown upon their members signing discharge petitions.

If 218 members sign the petition, the bill will be brought to the floor automatically. 

The last time a discharge petition forced House leaders to act was during the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform debate. 

Twenty-three lawmakers have signed the petition, including eight this month. The two Democrats who have backed it are Reps. Andre Carson (Ind.) and Jason Altmire (Pa.).

Gohmert told The Hill that he wants to avoid what could become a repeat of the shutdown debate this spring, when the urgency of approving a massive funding bill was portrayed by GOP leaders as a vote for, or against, U.S. troops. 

The Texas legislator claims that GOP leaders used the issue of paying members of the military as a means to twist the arms of wary lawmakers who were not satisfied with the deal Republicans struck with the White House.

“The military ought to be off the table. They should not be one of the poker chips to try to vote for a bill they otherwise wouldn’t vote for,” Gohmert said.

At that time, lawmakers were deluged with phone calls from frantic military families who would not get paid until a funding bill was signed into law. 

Gohmert’s measure was referred to the Armed Services Committee and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Neither panel has moved on the bill.

Seven committee chairmen, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), have co-sponsored the bill. Other backers include Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), House GOP Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Conference Secretary John Carter (R-Texas).

Asked to respond to Gohmert’s pursuit of a discharge petition, House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorBottom line Virginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' MORE (R-Va.) this week said there will not be a government shutdown. But he did not say why leadership has not moved Gohmert’s bill, or whether it would.

“No one is intending to bring about a government shutdown here. I think the country’s seen enough of that — the two sides have demonstrated real difference as far as cutting spending is concerned — we’re going to try and focus on where we can come together to pass a [continuing resolution] and focus on job creation, because it’s desperately needed,” Cantor told reporters. 

McKeon’s spokesman, Claude Chafin, explained that the Armed Service Committee head has been busy trying to fend off major cuts to the military.

“Chairman McKeon is committed to doing all he can to minimize uncertainty in our armed forces as Congress works its way through budgets and priorities this fall. Our troops are most concerned with how any reforms the supercommittee might recommend would impact their equipment, deployment and benefits,” Chafin said. 

Conservative lawmaker Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Utah), a signatory of Gohmert’s discharge petition, explained that when the government shut down in 1995 and 1996, the military funding bills had been signed into law before the stalemate between then-Democratic President Clinton and the GOP-controlled Congress. 

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“When we were threatened with shutdown this last time — military issues were on the table — all we want to do is say, look, that’s a core constitutional responsibility, let’s make sure that’s taken care of first and that’s not covered in any potential shutdown,” Bishop told The Hill. 

Congressional scholar Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution doesn’t think the Gohmert effort will be successful.

“This looks so contrary to regular order … I think it will go nowhere,” Mann said.

While calling Gohmert’s measure “a good bill,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said it has not been addressed in leadership meetings.

“It’s going through the process,” McCarthy said. 

Gohmert said he’s willing to risk future appointed positions in the conference in order to get a vote on the bill. 

“It probably means, if we have the same Speaker next time, I probably won’t have a [subcommittee] chairmanship then, either. But the people protecting us are more important to me than a chairmanship,” said Gohmert, who is a senior lawmaker on the Natural Resources and Judiciary committees.