Days before the U.S. House is planning to adjourn for its month-long recess, Speaker John Boehner is facing yet another challenge from the right. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., today filed a motion to remove Boehner as speaker.
“I couldn’t be silent any longer,” says @RepMarkMeadows
Meadows’ “motion to vacate the chair” accuses Boehner of trying to “consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 members of Congress and the people they represent.” Meadows would need a majority of the House to strip Boehner of the speakership.
“There are millions of Americans who know there is something drastically wrong with the way things happen in Washington, D.C.,” Meadows told talk radio host Mark Levin. “Hopefully, my colleagues will see that there’s something inherently wrong with the leadership that we have and it’s time for a change.”
Last month, Meadows was temporarily removed from his subcommittee chairmanship by a Boehner ally, Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Chaffetz punished Meadows for voting against a procedural motion to advance President Obama’s trade bill. Days later, Chaffetz was forced to reverse his decision when a majority of Republicans on the committee voiced their support for Meadows to retain the subcommittee role.
Meadows cites Boehner’s recent actions in the resolution. “[T]he Speaker uses the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker.” (Read the full resolution at the end of this story.)
After filing the resolution Tuesday, Meadows spoke to reporters on Capitol Hill. “It’s really more about trying to have a conversation on making this place work, where everybody’s voice matters, where there’s not a punitive culture,” he said.
Later in the evening, he spoke to Levin, who enthusiastically embraced the idea and urged conservatives to support it.
“I couldn’t be silent any longer,” Meadows told Levin. “Indeed, it’s something that had to be done—regardless of the consequences. And there will be consequences to pay. This particular decision may send me home. It may make sure that I don’t get reelected, but it’s one that had to be made.”
Support and Opposition
It’s unclear how many conservatives will back Meadows. Several lawmakers contacted by The Daily Signal declined to comment or did not respond to questions. One of the few who did speak to the press Tuesday was Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who told The Washington Post he supports the effort.
“The people in my district are incensed,” Jones told the Post. “The leadership’s not listening to the American people. … The frustration is a lot deeper than the leadership knows because they’re not in touch with the average citizen, the average Republican.”
Other lawmakers publicly denounced the effort.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, said he doubts that Meadows’ effort will succeed.
“This is not a serious effort,” Dent said. “It was not well thought out. It’s half-baked at best. We ought to bring the resolution up and vote it down—like, immediately.”
Dent suggested that leadership should put the motion up for a vote before the House adjourns for recess later this week.
“I would pick it up tonight if I could,” Dent said. “This is a total distraction. I don’t want to spend all of August talking about this instead of more important issues like the Iran deal. We ought to nip it in the bud now and get on message.”
In his interview with Levin, Meadows said the measure could get a vote as early as Wednesday if Republican leaders think they can defeat it. He warned that wouldn’t dissuade him from pressing his case as long as he represents North Carolina’s 11th District.
“That really doesn’t stop the effort,” he told Levin. “It really needs to be the people’s decision, not just a few in and around the Beltway in Washington.”
How It Happened
Meadows’ decision to file the resolution Tuesday apparently caught members of Congress by surprise. Yet it’s only the latest episode in a clash between the GOP’s conservative members and leadership.
The most recent dustup took place after a June 11 vote to bring Obama’s trade bill to the floor for a vote. Meadows joined 33 other Republicans in opposition to the rule, angering Boehner and the GOP leadership team, which expects party unity on rule votes. (The measure narrowly passed, 217-212, after several Democrats voted in favor of it.)
In the days that followed, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., removed three of those Republicans from his whip team: Reps. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; and Steve Pearce, R-N.M.
Chaffetz, meanwhile, gave Meadows the option to resign or be demoted as chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee. Meadows refused to resign, prompting Chaffetz to “make a change on the field.” Meadows maintained he did nothing wrong by voting his conscience on the trade bill.
Since 2013, Republican leaders have punished at least a dozen members.
Those who haven’t lost their spot on the whip team or fundraising opportunities with the National Republican Congressional Committee have been denied travel opportunities as part of congressional delegations overseas.
Meadows told Levin he expected to face retribution as a result of his recent actions.
“I don’t relish being punished, but the punishment is surely going to come,” he said. “But it’s nothing compared the sacrifices our Founding Fathers had to make.”
News of Meadows’ resolution comes just days before the 435 members of the U.S. House plan to depart for their August recess. Some of Meadows’ critics said the anti-Boehner resolution would distract from their efforts to build opposition to Obama’s Iran deal during the break.
Democrats appeared to embrace Meadows’ move. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a former House speaker who has maintained her leadership role despite Democrat electoral losses, attacked the GOP-led Congress in statement Wednesday.
“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,” Pelois said. “For more than 200 days, this Republican Congress has failed to advance any measure to create jobs and growth in our country, and leaves for August early with the prospect of only more shutdowns and manufactured crises in store this fall. The American people deserve better.”
It comes just a day after Senate Republicans appeared to resolve some of their differences over a highway bill and a vote to revive the Export-Import Bank, which expired on June 30. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, voiced strong opposition to the Ex-Im vote, with Cruz accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of lying to his fellow Republicans.
Cruz’s fiery speech Friday angered Senate Republicans like Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Orrin Hatch of Utah. They delivered floor speeches Sunday critical of Cruz’s blunt language about McConnell. Cruz, however, refused to back down—even after McConnell summoned all Republicans for a meeting Monday.
Now, with a summer recess only days away, both McConnell and Boehner face the challenge of a fractured party with competing priorities.