Effort to oust Boehner falls flat

Effort to oust Boehner falls flat
© Greg Nash

House conservatives and establishment Republicans agreed on one thing Wednesday: Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse panel votes to subpoena Kellyanne Conway over Hatch Act testimony Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump to appear at fundraiser for Jim Jordan: report GOP moves to block provision banning use of Defense funds for border wall MORE’s measure to depose Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa MORE was a bad idea.

Republicans aligned with and frequently opposed to Boehner (R-Ohio) argued the measure was an unnecessary distraction that could boost Hillary Clinton and Democrats at a time when Republicans need to hammer the administration on its Iran deal.

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Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), who serves with Meadows (R-N.C.) in the conservative House Freedom Caucus, called the move “about the dumbest idea I've seen here."

Another conservative, Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson Brooks58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill GOP candidate expects Roy Moore to announce Senate bid in June GOP leaders dead set against Roy Moore in Alabama MORE (R-Ala.), said the North Carolina Republican’s actions have caused “befuddlement” among members of the Freedom group, which Meadows helped establish this year.

“It’s terrible. It makes no sense. It helps the Democrats. It divides the party,” centrist Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a Boehner ally, 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.”

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), a conservative former pastor who works closely with Meadows, said he, too, disagreed with the unexpected action. Walberg serves as vice chairman of Meadows’s Oversight and 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.”

Meadows, a two-term congressman who represents much of western North Carolina, did attract support from a handful of hard-line conservatives such as Reps. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesGOP women's super PAC blasts 'out of touch' candidate in NC runoff GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE (R-N.C.).

And Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) tweeted that he would co-sponsor the Meadows measure.

 

But even some of Boehner’s staunchest critics on Capitol Hill say the effort is misguided. Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.), who was booted off the House Rules Committee for voting against Boehner for Speaker in January, said the resolution was a “distraction” from issues such as the Iran deal.

“If you’re voting to try to take down a Speaker, then you need to have a game plan for an alternative,” added Brooks, pointing out the lack of a viable candidate to replace Boehner.

Meadows’ bid to overthrow Boehner, a frequent target for conservative critics, shocked nearly everyone in the Capitol Tuesdayevening. 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.

But because the resolution was not “privileged” to force a vote, 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 pressed 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 Boehner and his leadership team ignored the Meadows’ resolution, and the House left town Wednesday night for a five-week summer recess. Addressing the issue for the first time, Boehner downplayed Meadows’ resolution as “no big deal,” saying he had “broad support” among his 246-member GOP conference.

“Listen, you’ve got a member here and a member there who are off the reservation,” Boehner said.

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.), herself a former Speaker.

Some suggested Meadows was cynically trying 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.

Meadows made headlines just a few weeks ago. 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 Graham (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. 

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 and Molly K. Hooper contributed.