WASHINGTON — An effort by a conservative Republican to strip House Speaker John Boehner of his position as the top House leader is largely symbolic, but is a sign of discontent among the more conservative wing of the House GOP.
On Tuesday, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who was disciplined earlier this year by House leadership, filed a resolution to vacate the chair, an initial procedural step.
The proposal was referred to a committee stocked with leadership loyalists, and it is unlikely to emerge. The move, however, reflected the discontent in the GOP where members have been frustrated with leaders’ willingness to compromise on some legislation.
The resolution said Boehner, R-Ohio, “has endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent.”
Meadows told reporters that he hoped his action prompted a “discussion” with Boehner and other House leaders “about representing the American people. It’s about fairness.”
Meadows said he wants Boehner and other GOP leaders to make sure that “every voice and every vote is respected, and votes of conscience are respected and not punished.”
Democrats seized on the unrest.
“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,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said on Wednesday. He added, “The American people deserve better.”
The acrimony within the Republican Party has been on stark display in Congress. Last Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of lying about votes. And more Republican infighting broke out Monday night as an email from an aide to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, suggested that conservative groups should take Lee’s fellow Republicans to task if they opposed him on a legislative maneuver to advance a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Lee’s move angered Republicans, and Lee sought to contain the damage, telling colleagues in a closed-door meeting that he hadn’t authorized the email.
The resolution Meadows filed accused the speaker of causing “the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the Executive and Judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American People.” And it said Boehner “uses the power of the office to punish members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the speaker.”
Last month, the leadership briefly stripped Meadows of his subcommittee chairmanship over his votes in a move supported by Boehner, but later relented after conservatives objected.
Boehner’s office had no comment. He is in his third term as speaker.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., dismissed the resolution and Meadows’ move.
“You don’t raise any money, you need a way to raise money, you do gimmicks like this,” said Nunes, who is close to Boehner.
Meadows disputed that claim.
“This is really more about an issue of fairness. It is not about raising money” for re-election, said Meadows, a two-term lawmaker who was elected in the tea party-backed 2010 class and represents the western tip of North Carolina.
Some GOP lawmakers backing leadership voiced concern that by keeping his effort to depose Boehner alive during the August recess, it would blunt the Republican effort to focus voters on why President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is bad.
“There’s been no one that’s been stronger on the Iran message. And to suggest we can only have one message when we go back home to talk to the American people would be to imply that our town halls can only have one question,” Meadows said.
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., who has experienced the wrath of the leadership and is a Boehner foe, complained that the leaders are “not listening to the American people.” He faulted leaders for not allowing quick votes against same-sex marriage and federal money for Planned Parenthood.
“He just has the courage to do something about it,” Jones said of Meadows.