Two dozen House Republicans yesterday broke ranks and withheld support from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), creating the most divided leadership election in generations. The mutineers must have known they were taking a risk, just as they realized they would pay a price.
Well, at least some of them knew this. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who ran for Speaker and received two votes – including one from himself – said retribution from the GOP leadership is “something I would assume Vladimir Putin would do.”
That’s one way to look at it. The other way recognizes that in every democratic legislature in the world, there’s an expectation that a party’s members will, at a minimum, elect the party’s leaders. In most parliaments, failure to do so puts a member’s career in jeopardy.
In the Republican-led Congress, the rebukes aren’t quite so severe, but as we saw last night, they are real.
[Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas] who backed the long-shot speakership bid of fellow Texan Rep. Louie Gohmert over Boehner, has been removed as the lead sponsor of a nuclear energy bill expected to brought to the floor in the 114th.During a small meeting Tuesday of about 10 members of the Texas delegation to discuss the speaker’s race, Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told Weber the speaker’s office had called and said Weber could not be the sponsor of that legislation, Weber told CQ Roll Call before the speaker vote this afternoon.
“You know, I’ve already been retaliated against. I’ve been taken off of a bill,” Weber told Roll Call. “The retaliation begins.”
Soon after, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), one of Boehner’s leading Republican foes, said he’d been denied a subcommittee chairmanship as a result of his vote in the Speaker’s election.
And by the end of the afternoon, two Florida Republican congressmen, Daniel Webster and Rich Nugent, learned they’ve been stripped of their positions on the Rules Committee after failing to back Boehner. (Webster ran for Speaker and received 12 votes.)
Not surprisingly, none of the punished GOP lawmakers are pleased, but really, what did they expect?
Boehner is already the weakest Speaker in modern history, and he very likely felt even more embarrassed yesterday when so many of his ostensible followers declared they wanted to force him from his post. If Boehner did literally nothing, the Speaker would send an unmistakable signal to his members: feel free to betray the party whenever you feel like it, comfortable in the knowledge that there will be no consequences.
Indeed, Boehner’s GOP opponents are arguably getting off easy. The Speaker has limited tools at his disposal – committee slots and bill sponsorships are effectively his top two choices for routine punishment – and it stands to reason he’ll use them under circumstances like these.