Conservatives gather to counter Boehner's 'culture of punishment'
A couple of dozen House conservatives are meeting on Tuesday to plot strategy to counter punitive actions by Speaker of the House John Boehner against members who defy the leadership on procedural and substantative issues.
The recent demotion of Rep. Mark Meadows, who lost his subcommittee chair on the oversight committee, has stirred conservatives to act. And if it's war that Boehner wants, it is war he is going to get.
In one of his first interviews since that move, Meadows stopped short of calling for the removal of Boehner or his lieutenants; House conservatives likely lack support to oust Republicans leaders even if they wanted to. But the mere mention of such a move shows that tensions between Boehner’s team and House conservatives, after seeming to subside the past several months, are peaking once again.
Meadows, a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said the group of roughly three dozen conservatives will meet Tuesday to discuss their next move.
“A change of leadership will start to be talked about in more earnest terms,” Meadows told POLITICO during an interview in his Capitol office Monday. “I’m not angry, but I do have a firm resolve that we change [the process] for Americans.”
He added, “It’s not about ideology. It’s about that all members of Congress need to have their voice heard and this is a place for debate. Not a place for punishment. People should not be worried about the type of vote they cast, ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ based on retribution.”
The more credible threat by House conservatives would be to begin voting with Democrats on procedural motions, which would effectively block GOP leaders from advancing favored legislation. In a phone call Sunday evening, members of the Freedom Caucus — led by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan — began discussing voting in such a concerted way. Freedom Caucus members have already voted no on so-called rule votes — Meadows’ decision to do so last week led to the loss of his subcommittee chairmanship — but they’re mulling doing so with more regularity.
Pockets of House conservatives have long voiced frustration with Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership of the House Republican Conference, but so far they’ve not organized in a meaningful way. If they decide to oppose the leadership on procedural votes, they could prove to be a major problem for Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
Boehner's incompetent leadership is only making a bad situation worse. His retaliation looks petty compared to the impact of the rebellion of a few dozen members. He is swatting flies with a bazooka and making more enemies in the process.
What kind of mischief could the conservatives get into by voting with Democrats on procedural motions? Derailing the party's agenda by preventing bills from coming to the floor risks alienating other members who may not approve of Boehner but want to establish a record to run on in 2016. In short, both sides risk making the situation worse, Boehner with his revenge tactics and the conservatives with their obstructionism.
It's a civil war years in the making and could very easily impact GOP chances to maintain control of the House and Senate in 2016.