Matthew Vadum: House Conservatives Revolt

Two conservative Republican lawmakers have stepped forward to contest moderate John Boehner’s bid for reelection as Speaker of the new House of Representatives.

The news that Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and conservative champion Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) plan to challenge Boehner (R-Ohio) for the Speaker’s gavel comes after a new survey shows 60 percent of Republican voters would pick a new candidate for Speaker over Boehner. The survey was conducted by The People’s Poll and carried out by Caddell Associates.

Rep. Gohmert was a featured speaker at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Restoration Weekend in 2014 and he is a regular speaker at Freedom Center events.

As America slides deeper into dysfunction, conservatives don’t want leadership in Congress that politely accepts whatever actions President Obama dictates. They want Republicans to take the fight to the Left, something conflict-averse Boehner has shown time and time again he is not willing to do.

The Grand Old Party’s conservative base is explosively angry at what it perceives as Boehner’s repeated betrayals throughout his term as Speaker of House. In their view, Boehner consistently sold out conservatives for political expediency. Boehner, they say, refused to fight debt ceiling increases, funded Obamacare, and did little to reduce government spending.

The monstrous $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill covering almost all of the federal government that Boehner and his crew rushed through last month was the last straw. Conservatives say that the leadership could easily have drafted a stopgap spending bill to carry them over to this month when Republicans control both chambers of Congress and have greater bargaining power in negotiations with President Obama.

But conservative critics say Boehner and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have ulterior motives. Using the boogeyman of a then-impending government shutdown to keep lawmakers in line, the GOP leadership generated a false sense of urgency in order to get enacted the legislation that does nothing to stop Obama’s extra-legal immigration amnesty. Boehner and McConnell, they say, also have no intention of repealing Obamacare, so they kicked the can down the road and included Obamacare funding in the omnibus spending measure.

The leadership’s capitulation to President Obama was even harder to take in the face of the Republican Party’s historic victory in congressional elections in November. Voters, conservatives say, wanted Boehner and top Republicans to dig in their heels and fight Obama even if it meant risking a partial government shutdown.

In the last few days candidates challenging Boehner explained why they want to be in charge of the House of Representatives.

“The American people have allowed us to choose who is best suited to lead the House by electing a deep bench of diverse and qualified members,” Rep. Ted Yoho said in a statement on Facebook Saturday. “Our Republic is built on choice, and if needed, I would stand up to give our members that option.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert announced the next day that he too was throwing his hat in the ring for Boehner’s job.

“I am putting forward my name for consideration as speaker and hope that with a new speaker, be that me or someone else, we can fight for the ideals and principles that the voters wanted when they elected us in November,” he said Sunday.

More lawmakers may yet emerge to challenge Boehner.

To keep his gavel Boehner will have to attract a simple majority of House members — 218 votes. Republicans outnumber Democrats 246 to 188 after Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) resigned last week. If more than 28 Republicans refuse to vote for Boehner, the House would continue to vote in subsequent rounds of balloting until a winner emerges with majority support.

An effort to oust Boehner failed two years ago. Nine conservatives, fed up with Boehner’s record as Speaker, voted against him. Those who led the campaign against Boehner said several lawmakers who had committed to vote against Boehner backed out before the vote was held.

The effort to oust Boehner is a long shot because as the incumbent Speaker, Boehner holds tremendous advantages. He can deprive any Republican lawmaker who votes against him of committee assignments and can make that individual’s life on Capitol Hill more difficult than it would otherwise be. Boehner is almost certainly vigorously horse-trading right now, offering favors in exchange for support for his reelection. Boehner’s allies can also be counted to apply intense pressure to holdouts to swing their votes.

Several Republicans have announced their intention not to vote for Boehner in the Speaker election Tuesday.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said, “I cannot stand beside the same leadership that has offered up bills too large to read, used parliamentary tricks to bring bills to the floor and has refused to take swift action against the president and his administration’s unconstitutional actions.”

Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) say they won’t vote for Boehner. Rep. Bridenstine, like Gohmert, was a featured speaker at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Restoration Weekend in 2014. He cited the December omnibus legislation as a reason not to support the Speaker.

“Speaker Boehner went too far when he teamed with Obama to advance this legislation,” he said. “He relinquished the power of the purse, and with it he lost my vote.”

Bridenstine added that “our Constitution is under assault” because Republicans haven’t fought hard enough against Obama’s unilateral actions to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, curb greenhouse gas emissions, shut down the terrorist prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and establish closer relations with Cuba.

Republicans squandered their massive electoral victory in November by refusing to use their spending power to combat Obama’s various power grabs.

“It seemed Democrats were melting down, Republicans were unified, and all we had to do was buy enough time to get our Republican reinforcements to Washington in January,” he said.

Massie criticized the GOP leadership. “During my first two years as a congressman I discovered a significant source of the dysfunction. I watched the House Leadership,” he said Massie.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) acknowledged in a radio interview that he had been talking with 16 to 18 conservative lawmakers about grooming an alternative candidate for Speaker. Freshman Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Alabama) vowed in the fall not to support Boehner.

Americans will find out tomorrow if Jones’s efforts bore fruit.