Boehner allies: Coup plot boosts Democrats and 'makes no sense'

John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFrom learning on his feet to policy director Is Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush MORE’s allies returned fire at Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Ukraine whistleblower under fire — Where are the first responders? MORE (R-N.C.) on Wednesday, saying the conservative lawmaker’s half-hatched plot to depose the Speaker has boosted Democrats like Hillary Clinton.

“It’s terrible. It makes no sense. It helps the Democrats. It divides the party,” Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) told The Hill. “We should be spending all of August talking about the Iranian nuclear agreement, not this fool’s errand of vacating the Speaker’s chair.

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“It makes us look like a banana republic,” he continued. “All this does it create chaos, and a real conservative should not want chaos, certainly not needless chaos.”

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), a conservative former pastor who works closely with Meadows, said he, too, disagreed with the North Carolina Republican’s unexpected action. Walberg serves as vice chairman of Meadow’s Oversight & Government Reform subcommittee and considers Meadows a friend.

“The Speaker’s leadership up to this point has not warranted this action by Mr. Meadows,” Walberg said in an interview. “I don't know why Mr. Meadows did it. I don’t support him in that. … We’re friends but I have a lot of friends who have done things I don’t agree with. Mark and I will have a conversation.”

Even lawmakers who are often Boehner foes think the resolution is an ill-advised strategy.
 
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said "there is a lot of befuddlement" among members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which Meadows helped establish this year.
 
Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.), who was booted off the House Committee on Rules for voting against Boehner for Speaker in January, said the resolution was a "distraction" from issues like the Iran deal.
 
"It’s a distraction and a stunt," Nugent said.
 
But some hard-line conservatives, like Reps. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) support the Meadows effort.
 
"I think seeing Donald Trump leading the polls in so many states is a clear sign of a lack of leadership," said Yoho, who accrued just two votes when he ran against Boehner for Speaker this year. "Every now and then you need a good catalyst to make something happen."

Meadows’s bid to overthrow Boehner, a frequent target for conservative critics, shocked nearly everyone in the Capitol Tuesday evening. Without warning, he introduced a resolution to vacate the Speaker’s chair — a rare procedural tactic that had been explored by Boehner foes in the past year, but never deployed.

However, because the resolution was not “privileged,” it’s unlikely to go anywhere. It was immediately sent to the Rules Committee, nicknamed the “Speaker’s Committee” because it is packed with Boehner’s hand-picked allies including Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas).

Some Boehner allies have been pressing Sessions and other GOP leaders to quickly take up the resolution and hold a vote to demonstrate the Speaker’s grip on the 246-member GOP conference.

But the House is leaving town Wednesday night for a six-week summer recess, and a more likely outcome is that the leadership simply ignores Meadows's resolution. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Nunes pressed on Fox News about comparing impeachment inquiry to a 'coup' Vaping illness spurs calls for federal marijuana changes MORE (R-Calif.) hasn’t indicated there will be any additions to the day’s floor schedule.

Meadows's plan gave Democrats an immediate opening to attack Republicans.

“As the American people look to Congress for solutions to the challenges they face, they increasingly see a Republican Congress dominated by obstruction, distraction and dysfunction,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the former Speaker.

Many Republicans agreed that Meadows created an unnecessary distraction for the party, just as lawmakers head home to face constituents at town halls and other meetings. Instead of focusing on the Iran nuclear deal, transportation funding or the Planned Parenthood videos, lawmakers said they are being asked about intraparty squabbling.

Some suggested it was a cynical ploy to raise campaign cash — and his political profile.

Boehner and many of his allies on Capitol Hill and in the business community have stopped donating to conservative lawmakers who’ve tried to remove the Speaker or opposed leaders on critical legislation.

“He probably wants to raise money for his campaign,” said one House Republican lawmaker who opposed Meadows’ move.

Meadows made headlines just a few weeks ago when Boehner allies stripped him of his Oversight subcommittee gavel shortly after he and other conservatives opposed a leadership-backed procedural vote on critical trade legislation. But anger from the right forced leaders to reinstate Meadows as chairman just days later. 

Facing reporters Tuesday night, Meadows denied that he fundraised off the gavel fight or that his Boehner resolution is a publicity stunt.

“I haven’t raised money off of anything that has happened to me in this House,” he said.

He further dismissed the suggestion that his resolution would overshadow the GOP’s August recess messaging to gin up opposition to the Iran deal.

“To suggest we can only have one message when we go back home to talk to the American people would be to imply that our town halls can only have one question,” Meadows said.

One GOP presidential candidate, however, took Meadows to task for launching an issue that distracts the party from winning the White House.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Graham on the impeachment inquiry: 'I made my mind up. There's nothing there' Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption MORE (R-S.C.), who was involved in a 1990s coup attempt against then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, said Meadows — or anyone else for that matter — wouldn’t be able to perform better than Boehner given that a Democrat is currently occupying the Oval Office.   

“The gentleman of North Carolina, if he was speaker, couldn’t do any better. Nobody, nobody could repeal ObamaCare as long as Obama’s president. Nobody could defund Planned Parenthood as long as Obama’s president 'cause he won’t sign a bill into law that would allow that, but we can try. He would veto any effort, and it would be sustained,” Graham told a gaggle of reporters Wednesday.  

“It will take a Republican president to fix these problems, along with a Republican Congress. When people say otherwise, they’re misleading a frustrated electorate.

Meadows has created an issue that distracts the GOP “from winning in 2016, that focuses us away from the real big issue, and that’s the deterioration of national security, Iran’s bad deal, Hillary Clinton’s problems,” Graham continued.

“I would say to the gentleman of North Carolina, the biggest beneficiary of your actions has been Hillary Clinton and the ayatollah."

Sarah Ferris contributed.