GOP Critics Push for Frelinghuysen to Lose Approps Gavel

The retiring chairman’s opposition to the farm bill was only the latest in a series of votes against top party priorities.

House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen during a budget subcommittee meeting on March 6
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Daniel Newhauser
Add to Briefcase
Daniel Newhauser
May 23, 2018, 6:33 p.m.

As the world focused on whether Speaker Paul Ryan will be deposed before he retires, another potential high-profile coup flew under the radar this week: Some House members are pushing to punish Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen.

Frelinghuysen, who has already announced he is retiring at the end of this term, was one of 30 Republicans to vote against the GOP farm bill last week, continuing his pattern of voting against several of the most high-profile bills that his leaders have tried to pass. The move did not go unnoticed by his colleagues.

At a private GOP Conference meeting Tuesday morning, Rep. Austin Scott stood up and excoriated members who vote against the team. He suggested a change to internal conference rules that would force chairmen to vote with their party and said members who part with the pack should be punished, according to three sources in the room.

“This is a conference issue and I’m not going to speak publicly to it,” Scott said Wednesday, when asked about his comments.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker, however, said something needs to be done. He commended Scott for “speaking out against that, stepping up there,” yet cautioned that he does not want to prescribe a solution for a problem that should be leadership’s to handle.

“I think leadership needs to do something instead of just looking the other way,” Walker said. “That’s ridiculous. Every major thing that we do, he goes the other direction. That’s not the qualification for a committee chairman and I’m hoping they’ll take some action.”

Leadership could pressure Frelinghuysen to step down, but he is already retiring at the end of his term, so there is no guarantee he would do so. In a more drastic step, his chairmanship could be revoked by the House Steering Committee, the body that selects committee chairs made up of members of leadership, some committee chairs, regional representatives, and members representing their election class. The Steering Committee would have to recommend that he be demoted, and the whole Conference would have to then vote to ratify it.

This idea is not new—Ryan reportedly weighed stripping his chairmanship after Frelinghuysen voted against the tax bill.

Frelinghuysen’s office did not return a request for comment. Spokeswomen for Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to comment.

In addition to the farm bill, Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, was one of only 12 Republicans to vote against their signature tax bill and one of only 20 who voted against the GOP’s original attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. He eventually voted for an amended Obamacare-repeal bill, which failed to pass the Senate.

While the tax bill was eventually signed into law, the health care and farm bills failed in embarrassing fashion, frustrating House Republicans.

Although he did not want to expound on what he said behind closed doors, Scott noted that to blame just one person for the farm-bill’s failure would be wrong, when “demands on a totally separate piece of legislation were made.” Many members of the House Freedom Caucus voted against the farm bill in an attempt to force leadership to bring an immigration bill to a vote.

Yet expectations are different for Freedom Caucus members than they are for a top committee chairman. Frelinghuysen has one of the most coveted jobs in Washington, chairing the committee that funds all aspects of the federal government and enjoys prime office space in the Capitol. When you chair a committee—especially an “A Committee”—there is an expectation that you vote with the team.

Frelinghuysen’s gavel is already up for grabs next year, since he is retiring. Robert Aderholt, who is vying to replace him, said that perhaps there should be a rule for committee chairs to vote with leadership’s priorities.

“When the tax bill came up, I think it was like, ‘OK, what’s the deal here?’ But I think there have been a lot more questions because of this additional bill,” Aderholt said. “At some point there’s a lot of members saying we … need to have a rule on how we’re going to operate. Everybody’s got to live by one rule, or is there an exception for some people?”

Aderholt, an Alabama Republican, acknowledged that his uber-conservative district makes it easier for him to vote with the team, in contrast to Frelinghuysen’s moderate district. But he said that members are frustrated especially because Frelinghuysen is unburdened from running for reelection.

“I know there is frustration out there, and especially since he’s not running for reelection,” Aderholt said. “I think there is an expectation for the chairman to vote with the team, unless there’s extenuating circumstances … unless there is some parochial issue in their district, that they have a real problem, a real issue.”

Frelinghuysen released statements on the Obamacare repeal and tax bill votes noting that he thought the legislation would be bad for his district. Frelinghuysen told Roll Call this month that he has never voted for a farm bill. Several moderates voted against it out of concern for changes made to the food stamp program.

His vote against Republican priorities could have repercussions beyond just Frelinghuysen: The Appropriations Committee is in the midst of shepherding its spending measures through Congress, and members have long complained of the irony of Frelinghuysen asking them to vote for bills they do not fully support when he does not do the same.

Still, removing a chairman is an extraordinarily rare move, and would exacerbate internal tensions at a time when Republican leaders are trying to downplay their infighting and pass legislation before the election season.

What We're Following See More »
ONLY 14 NO VOTES
House Approves Opioid Package
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed sweeping bipartisan opioid legislation, concluding the chamber’s two-week voteathon on dozens of bills to address the drug abuse epidemic. The measure combines more than 50 bills approved individually by the House focusing on expanding access to treatment, encouraging the development of alternative pain treatments and curbing the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S. It was passed 396-14, with 13 Republicans and one Democrat voting against the package."

Source:
NEVERMIND THE TWEETS
Trump Tells Congress North Korea Remains a Threat
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a letter to Congress on Friday, President Trump wrote that he's continuing the national emergency status with respect to North Korea, citing the country's “provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions," which "continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat” to the United States. In a series of tweets following his meeting with Kim Jong-un, Trump said Americans could sleep well at night because North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat.

Source:
ZERO-TOLERANCE FALLOUT CONTINUES
Navy Document Outlines Plans For Detention Camps
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Navy is preparing plans to construct sprawling detention centers for tens of thousands of immigrants on remote bases in California, Alabama and Arizona, escalating the military’s task in implementing President Donald Trump’s 'zero tolerance' policy for people caught crossing the Southern border." The document outlines plans for "temporary and austere" internment camps for 25,000 migrants "at abandoned airfields just outside the Florida panhandle," and in Alabama, for 47,000 people near San Francisco, and "as many as 47,000 people at Camp Pendleton" in California. The document estimates that operating a camp to detain 25,000 people for six months would cost approximately $233 million.

Source:
LASERS USED IN DJIBOUTI TOO
U.S. Military Aircraft Targeted By Lasers
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Lasers have targeted pilots of American military aircraft operating over the western Pacific Ocean more than 20 times in recent months," said U.S. officials. The lasers appeared to be coming from Chinese fishing boats in the South China Sea, said the officials, which is the setting of a "long-running dispute between China and Japan over the control of nearby islands ... The incidents likely will come up as part of a broader discussion of issues when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visits Beijing next week and meets Chinese President Xi Jinping."

Source:
EMPHASIZES SECURITY AND JOBS
Trump Overturns Obama Orders on Oceans
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump has unveiled a new policy that depicts the world’s oceans as a resource ripe for expanded business opportunities, reversing the Obama administration's emphasis on protecting 'vulnerable' marine environments." Rather than emphasizing environmental protection, as Obama's policy did, "Trump’s directive speaks mostly to the oceans as a resource for promoting national security" and creating jobs.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login