Mark Meadows Tries to Boot Boehner From Speakership

The conservative lawmaker, angry at past punishment by leadership, has almost no chance to succeed.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) walks away after speaking to the media after attending the weekly House Republican conference at the U.S. Capitol January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. Speaker Boehner spoke on various issues including tonight's State of the Union speech by U.S. President Barack Obama.
National Journal
Daniel Newhauser
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Daniel Newhauser
July 28, 2015, 2:19 p.m.

Rep. Mark Mead­ows will be spend­ing his Au­gust re­cess col­lect­ing sig­na­tures to oust Speak­er John Boehner.

After his mo­tion to re­move Boehner from Con­gress’s highest of­fice was shot down on the House floor Tues­day and sent to the Rules Com­mit­tee to lan­guish, Mead­ows’s of­fice said he would try a new route. The North Car­o­lina Re­pub­lic­an will at­tempt to cir­cum­vent the com­mit­tee pro­cess with a dis­charge pe­ti­tion that, if signed by a ma­jor­ity of House mem­bers, will force a vote to va­cate Boehner from the speak­er­ship.

“The next step will likely be to file for a dis­charge pe­ti­tion. This wasn’t something that Mr. Mead­ows took lightly; he wanted to al­low time and con­sid­er­a­tion for oth­er mem­bers,” Mead­ows spokes­wo­man Alyssa Farah said.

It is an un­likely scen­ario that has worked rarely in mod­ern Con­gresses, and for this par­tic­u­lar is­sue, Mead­ows would need to band with Demo­crats and enough con­ser­vat­ives to reach the threshold. Re­gard­less, his un­ex­pec­ted move on the House floor high­lights the con­tin­ued un­rest between Boehner and far-right con­ser­vat­ives in his con­fer­ence.

The res­ol­u­tion to “va­cate the chair,” as it is known, would have forced a vote to strip Boehner of the gavel, which would then have set up a vote to in­stall a new speak­er — or reelect Boehner. But GOP lead­er­ship aides said it was filed as a non­priv­ileged res­ol­u­tion, which means that rather than trig­ger­ing an im­me­di­ate vote on the House floor, it was re­ferred to the Rules Com­mit­tee, which is packed with Boehner al­lies.

Mem­bers on the House floor clearly were taken aback by the hol­dup in the day’s pro­ceed­ings as aides scrambled to sort out the next steps. House Rules pan­el Chair­man Pete Ses­sions told re­port­ers Tues­day af­ter­noon that he would look at the res­ol­u­tion be­fore de­term­in­ing the next course of ac­tion, but that he had not even seen it.

“I have to pon­der what I’m go­ing to do,” Ses­sions said. “Nobody came to talk to me, nobody asked my opin­ion, nobody asked me any­thing about it. I’m go­ing to take a look at it, see what it stands for.”

Mead­ows’s res­ol­u­tion says Boehner has “en­deavored to con­sol­id­ate power and cent­ral­ize de­cision-mak­ing, by­passing the ma­jor­ity” and has “caused the power of Con­gress to at­rophy,” among oth­er charges. It also says the House “re­quires the ser­vice of a Speak­er who will en­deavor to fol­low an or­derly and in­clus­ive pro­cess without im­pos­ing his or her will upon any Mem­ber there­of.”

A cadre of con­ser­vat­ives has long com­plained about the way Boehner and his fel­low lead­ers have run the con­fer­ence, and Mead­ows has a par­tic­u­lar griev­ance: The lead­er­ship pushed for Mead­ows to lose an Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form sub­com­mit­tee gavel after he voted against an im­port­ant rule for de­bate on the floor.

In Janu­ary, at the start of the 114th Con­gress, 25 Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers de­clined to sup­port Boehner for Speak­er, the most to op­pose a sit­ting Speak­er since 1923 and more than twice as many as op­posed Boehner at the start of the pre­vi­ous Con­gress.

Rep. Wal­ter Jones, one of those mem­bers, said he would have voted for the mo­tion had it been giv­en a vote.

“The people in my dis­trict are in­censed,” Jones said. “The lead­er­ship is not listen­ing to the Amer­ic­an people. They haven’t listened to the Amer­ic­an people.”

Still, even Mead­ows’s al­lies on the House Free­dom Caucus did not ap­pear to know about this move be­fore he did it. Mead­ows filed the mo­tion without any co­spon­sors.

Freedom­Works, an out­side con­ser­vat­ive group, said it backed Mead­ows’s ef­fort. “His cour­age and will­ing­ness to risk everything from com­mit­tee place­ments to fun­drais­ing in or­der to do what’s right is an in­spir­a­tion to us all. We will be there, along­side our mil­lions of act­iv­ists across the coun­try, to sup­port this ef­fort,” the group said in a state­ment.

This art­icle has been up­dated.

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