Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said he didn’t regret removing Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) from his subcommittee chairmanship for voting his conscience against GOP leadership, but that Chaffetz learned from that experience.
In a 45-minute meeting with reporters, the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee attempted to make the case as to why he should be the next Speaker of the House. Chaffetz announced Sunday that he would run for Speaker, along with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL).
Breitbart News asked Chaffetz if he regretted removing Meadows from his subcommittee chairmanship after Meadows voted against the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and GOP leadership. Leadership pushed the passage of the TPA, which granted President Obama fast-track trade authority.
“It was an important lesson to me that you’re not going to break knuckles in order to build unity. What’s important is what I did with it,” Chaffetz said. “My committee members felt that I overextended myself. I spent an hour and forty minutes with them in a full group. I listened to them. I prayed about it and I came back and reinstituted him.”
“I think it was an important lesson. I’m actually glad I went through it,” he added. “It was too harsh. I overextended myself. But I was also, I think a good leader in that I listened, and reconsidered and ultimately did the right thing.”
Chaffetz told reporters that having gone through that process with Meadows, he thinks he demonstrated that he would make a good leader.
Having gone through that now, a lot of those people saw that – the way I dealt with that – and thought that’s the way this conference should work. That’s the leader we want in place. It’s not going to be through retribution and taking off knee caps that’s going to keep us united.
He added, “We’ve got to unite and then fight and that is not happening right now.”
Chaffetz hinted that he didn’t believe McCarthy had the 218 votes needed to secure the Speakership. “I think increasingly members are recognizing that their constituents don’t want to perpetuate the status quo, that simply giving existing leadership a promotion is not going to work well at all.”
“It became increasingly clear that we needed a fresh face,” he said. “I thought some of our best qualified people – Paul Ryan, Jeb Hensarling, Trey Gowdy – they just weren’t going to do it.”
Chaffetz said he didn’t have a formal whip count nor a formal whip team to figure the vote counts between him and the other members running for Speaker.
“This is going to have to happen organically,” he explained.
He said he’s been calling every member since yesterday after telling McCarthy that he would announce a run for Speaker.
“I sat with Kevin in New York on Friday morning and told him what I was going to do, eyeball to eyeball. He was the first person that I told. He wasn’t too happy,” Chaffetz told the reporters.
“I understand,” he said, of McCarthy not being happy with his decision. “I’ve been friends with Kevin and still consider him a close friend and ally.”
“I will support the nominee, but that problem of 218 gets worse over time not better,” he warned. “The people that have suggested and recruited me to do this did so because they felt that I would be a fair, even hand for some internal process reform.”
Chaffetz said he believed those that supported him believed he would make a good spokesperson for what is being accomplished in the House.
“It’s my strong suit,” Chaffetz said of his communication skills. “Certain members do things well or better than others. I think I’ve demonstrated that I’ve been fighting for accountability on the administration since I’ve gotten here.”
“I’m very Margaret Thatcher that way – you got to win the argument in the public. Then, you have the ability to govern and pass bills.”
Chaffetz said he would divide up responsibilities to push back more on the committees and committee chairmen. “The speaker should not be responsible for everything,” he explained.
A reporter questioned Chaffetz about how he would feel if the rules were changed so he would have to give up his chairmanship to run for speaker.
“We should encourage more people to run – not less,” he responded. “I do think it’s right to move those other leadership races after the vote on the floor,” he added. “The new speaker should be able to set those elections.”
“Ultimately, they need to find a person who can bridge the far ulterior right wing faction of our party with more centrist members,” Chaffetz said of the conference.
He was asked how he would change the process of governance as Speaker of the House.
“I want to put more emphasis on the committee structure and producing of bills. There seems to be a very small group of senior leadership that pushes bills to the floor at the last moment without much member input,” he responded.
Chaffetz shared with reporters that he has asked to speak with John Boehner, but has not been able to yet.
One reporter asked if he thought there would be any retribution – such as losing his chairmanship –for running for Speaker against McCarthy.
“I don’t think the public would allow that to happen…and I don’t think Kevin McCarthy is that type of person either,” he said. “I’m not running against Kevin. I’m not running because he would be a bad Majority Leader or a bad Speaker. I’m running because I think I fill a void he just simply can’t fill. He is existing leadership.”
Chaffetz said he has called about half of the conference since yesterday, but only spoke to roughly one-third of that half. He said he has several meetings planned with different delegations.
He stood strong on defunding Planned Parenthood, saying, “That’s a fight I expect to have.”
“I want to fight. I’m not just here to gravitate to the lowest common denominator.”