In recent months, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has taken some fairly aggressive steps to enforce party unity, which has included meting out punishments for members who ignore the GOP leadership.
Near the top of the list is Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who helped create the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, and who was temporarily stripped of a subcommittee chairmanship after irritating the Speaker’s office once too many times. (Meadows regained the gavel soon after.)
In June, amidst the behind-the-scenes turmoil, the North Carolina Republican hinted that he might try to take Boehner down. Apparently, as NBC News reported last night, Meadows wasn’t kidding.
A House Republican often at odds with John Boehner launched a bid Tuesday to kick the speaker of the house out of his job – an almost unheard-of rebellion but one that has been simmering for months.Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, filed a motion to “vacate the chair” – a parliamentary maneuver that could be used to depose Boehner, R-Ohio.
The motion accuses Boehner of having “endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent,” and of using “the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker.”
Is there any chance this could actually work? Is Boehner’s job actually in jeopardy?
Almost certainly not. No sitting Speaker has ever been ousted – it’s been over a century since someone even tried – and there’s no evidence to suggest House GOP lawmakers, en masse, are eager to launch a coup. I don’t doubt Meadows’ sincerity, but he’ll probably be disappointed to discover how small his faction really is.
That doesn’t mean the fight itself is unimportant. House Republican leaders apparently had no idea this was coming, and as the chamber gets ready to break for its six-week summer recess, the chatter on the Hill shifted away from killing nuclear diplomacy and gutting Planned Parenthood, moving instead to scuttlebutt about deep divisions within the House GOP.
In other words, this “gimmick,” as one Republican congressman put it, is an unwelcome distraction for the party at an inconvenient time.
For his part, Meadows seems to realize his gambit isn’t going to work. The North Carolina Republican bypassed procedural options that could have forced the issue onto the House floor quickly, telling reporters last night that he’s principally interested in “trying to have a conversation about making this place work, where everybody’s voice matters, where it’s not a punitive culture.”
With his motion to “vacate the chair,” Meadows will probably start a “conversation,” though he may not like what his colleagues have to say.