By Tony Perkins
Somebody needs to remind John Boehner that it’s a gavel, not a hammer! Unfortunately for many of the conservatives who voted their conscience in yesterday’s leadership election, that message didn’t make it to the House Speaker. The Speaker used his first hours back in power to pummel members who didn’t support his reelection.
After the biggest challenge to a Speaker since the Civil War, conservative rebels got a taste of Boehner’s displeasure when two were knocked off key committees and another was stripped from a bill he planned to sponsor. For the 24 who stood up to the third-term Speaker, the price of principle is already swift — and severe.
Within hours of casting their ballots, Reps. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Richard Nugent (R-Fla.) got the boot from the House Rules Committee, where both had served last term. Conservative Randy Weber (R-Texas), who backed fellow Texan Louie Gohmert (R) for Speaker, was informed that he’d no longer have the privilege of bringing an energy measure to the floor. “I’ve already lost the authorship of one bill,” Weber fumed. “Look it shouldn’t be that way.”
For other members, payback is almost certainly on its way. That doesn’t bother Congressman Scott Rigell (R-Va.), who insists that his was a “vote of conscience.” “Something I share with my staff all the time,” he told reporters, “is that I want to serve without fear and leave without regret.”
Of course, most of the defectors went into this vote with eyes wide open, courtesy of Congressmen like Tim Huelskamp (R-Kans.), who — like three others — felt the stick of leadership when they voted against Boehner in 2012. This time around, the mutiny had twice as many members as two years ago, when the resistance seemed to catch Boehner off guard. “I am already hearing from my colleagues,” Huelskamp said, “about retaliation against those who voted their conscience, their constituents, their principles, to change the status quo. My colleagues fully expect that. That’s what they expect out of this leadership team.”
And while revenge may be gratifying now, its pleasure will be short-lived. After all, these 24 members are being punished simply for listening to their constituents — the same constituents who rewarded these GOP leaders with the control they’re now abusing! If Republicans hope to preserve this new majority and expand it to the White House, they’ll need to work with this expanded conservative caucus to rein in big, costly government.
I’m sure Speaker Boehner is frustrated and embarrassed by what he feels is a deep betrayal by conservatives. But the surest way to win people back is not by getting even but by getting to work rebuilding that lost trust. As the Speaker said yesterday, members are “servants in the people’s House.” It is their “duty and our privilege to lend a willing ear to the people…”
These members’ only crime is doing exactly that: listening to the people, 60 percent of whom wanted a fresh face in the Speaker’s office. For the sake of the country, let’s hope the leaders’ antagonism is short-lived. As Congressman Gohmert said on our radio show yesterday, “It would be a shame if the Speaker of the House who has so much power is a sore winner…”
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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