A new bombshell report from Politico found that House Speaker John Boehner had several days of secret negotiations with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the recently emboldened former Speaker, leading up to his decision to flip-flop and fund President Obama’s executive amnesty—including a pre-hashed out deal to use the hoopla around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Tuesday address to Congress over Iran’s nuclear ambitions as political cover to sneak in the extraordinarily controversial vote. Even with the bombshell report, however, Boehner’s office continues to deny any deal took place.
“It was Monday at 5:30 p.m. when Pelosi and Boehner agreed that it was ‘best to take up the matter on Tuesday immediately after Netanyahu’s address in order to deal with the matter as quickly as possible upon return of the Senate papers,’ according to an aide familiar with the conversations,” Politico’s Lauren French wrote on Thursday evening.
That part of a supposed deal between Pelosi and Boehner came after what French reported were several days of negotiating and dealmaking between the current and former Speaker. French wrote:
Since Friday, Pelosi and Boehner have held quiet rounds of negotiations and maneuvering to push the measure through the House over the objections of a cadre of conservatives in Boehner’s conference who scuttled a three-week funding bill in a dramatic showdown last week. As late as Tuesday, Boehner tapped Democrats to help pass a procedural rule for a funding bill for Amtrak that Republicans were threatening to bring down if it did not include a provision that would stop a clean DHS bill from moving forward. But Pelosi pledged Democratic support to move forward — a departure from normal where the minority party always votes against rules brought by the party controlling the floor.
Pelosi asked her Democrats at her caucus meeting, French reported, to support the rule by coming “right to the floor and get up on that board, so that we can end this thing.”
“That last-minute move comes after days of Democrats maneuvering to push the House to bring up a clean bill,” French wrote. “Vital to those talks were Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson, the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee; Nita Lowey, the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee; and Lucille Roybal-Allard, the top Democrat on a Homeland Security Subcommittee.”
French added that this is just the “latest chapter” of Boehner needing to turn to Democrats to get legislation passed through the Republican House.
“The vote Tuesday is just the latest chapter in a long-running saga between Democrats and Boehner,” French wrote. “The Ohio Republican is often forced to turn to Pelosi to deliver votes when legislation, like government spending bills and increases to the debt limit, fail to garner enough support from Republicans. That gives Pelosi, who has watched her caucus sink into the deepest minority Democrats have experienced in decades, an unusually powerful hand in times of crisis.”
French detailed how Pelosi maneuvered, alongside her other top House Democrats, into a stronger negotiating position— taking advantage of Boehner’s weaknesses to achieve her legislative goals. French wrote:
When Boehner initially tried to propose a three-week extension of the Department of Homeland Security’s funding, Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer urged Democrats to reject the bill — and to hold out voting until Republicans were on the record with their votes. The tactic worked. Pelosi lost only a dozen Democrats and Boehner was forced to pass a week-long bill only hours before deadline to avert a shutdown. Right after the vote on Friday, Pelosi met with senior Democratic leaders to plot a way forward. That included a 7 p.m. phone call with Boehner in which the two debated using a little-known procedure called Rule 22 to allow a vote on a long-term funding bill for DHS that was clean of any policy riders. That maneuver, which was ultimately used to pass the DHS bill on Tuesday, allowed House lawmakers to reverse an earlier vote against a clean bill, after the House and Senate were unable to forge an agreement to enter conference negotiations before DHS funding expires.
Boehner’s office vigorously denies that any deal with Pelosi took place.
“There was no ‘deal’ of any kind,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Breitbart News on Thursday night in response to French’s article, noting that he’s said that repeatedly since Friday night.
Pelosi’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
But with the level of distrust Boehner has sown with his own conference over his four years and a couple months as Speaker of the House, conservatives just don’t believe him.
Americans for Limited Government (ALG), a conservative organization, targeted each of the 75 Republicans who joined all House Democrats to fund Obama’s amnesty. ALG president Rick Manning said in customized releases distributed to the districts of all 75 GOP members who voted with the Democrats to fund executive amnesty:
The vote to fund President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty will have a profound negative impact on our nation for years to come. The 75 Republicans, including Rep. [Tom] Cole [a liberal Republican from Oklahoma, for example], who lost courage have aided and abetted the shredding of the U.S. Constitution by giving Obama the funds to rewrite federal law. Each of these Republicans including Cole took an oath of office less than two months prior to their vote. And in that oath, they swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Cole’s failure may forever put Congress in a junior rubberstamp role for any presidential action. There is a time when every elected official is forced to make a choice. Unfortunately, the cowardly 75 chose to violate their oaths and break trust with America. I sincerely hope that Cole finds the heart to stand up to the President in the many upcoming battles.
Conservatives question how long Boehner can get away with this behavior, too.
“Boehner is joining moderate and liberal Republicans with Democrats to cobble together a left of center majority in a Republican House,” Gaston Mooney, the executive editor of Conservative Review, told Breitbart News. “All this in an attempt to marginalize the majority of his own party. The question is how many times can Boehner marginalize the majority of his own party before he completely loses support, and thus his speakership.”
Mooney’s not alone in raising the question of just how much rope Boehner has left before he hangs himself with these Democrat deals. Technically, on Tuesday, to pass the bill to fund executive amnesty after spending months saying he wouldn’t, Boehner violated the so-called Hastert Rule yet again. As such, it’s worth revisiting what Denny Hastert—the Boehner predecessor for which the rule is named—said when Boehner first began flirting with using Democrats to achieve his big government agenda.
“Here is the problem. Maybe you can do it once, maybe you can do it twice, but when you start making deals when you have to get Democrats to pass the legislation, you are not in power anymore,” Hastert, who served as House Speaker from Jan. 6, 1999, through Jan. 3, 2007, said in a Fox News interview when Boehner used Democrat votes to pass the fiscal cliff deal through the House in late 2012.
“When you start passing stuff that your members are not in line with, all of a sudden your ability to lead is in jeopardy because somebody else is making decisions,” Hastert added. “The president is making decisions, Pelosi is making decisions, or they are making the decisions in the Senate. All tax bills and all spending bills under the Constitution start in the House. When you give up that responsibility you really give up your responsibility to govern, and that is the problem.”
Part of the reason why Hastert was Speaker of the House for as long as he was without an intra-party revolt was because he was cognizant of the limits of his power within the GOP. The rule that bears his name—the Hastert Rule—informally yet very strongly recommends that the Speaker doesn’t bring legislation to the floor of the House without the support of a majority of his or her party’s members in the House. That means that Hastert wouldn’t bring bills to the floor unless a majority of House Republicans supported them, and he wouldn’t seek to use Democratic votes with a small percentage of his conference to pass legislation. While it isn’t a requirement, the informal rule shows that Speakers who mostly follow it understand the limits of their power and that said power comes from the members of a Speaker’s conference—which by extension comes from the voters nationwide who elected those members and elected that party into the majority.
According to a New York Times vote tracker, throughout the recent history of Hastert Rule violations, Hastert himself violated the rule only 12 times over the course of his entire speakership—which lasted one term shy of a decade. Half of those 12 violations happened in Hastert’s first term as Speaker, as he was just learning the ropes—meaning that for six years he only broke the rule once a year. Boehner’s immediate predecessor, Pelosi, violated the Hastert Rule seven times over four years.
Boehner, as of late, has become addicted to using Democratic votes to pass significant pieces of legislation. In his first term as Speaker, he did it once in March 2011 and one more time on the first day of 2013 to pass the fiscal cliff vote. In his second term as Speaker, though, he did it six times, spread out over two years. And now, on the first major consequential vote of his third term as Speaker, he did it again—and notably, this time, there is a Senate Republican Majority. If Boehner keeps doing this, he’s likely to eventually infuriate enough Republican members for an eventual internal conference coup against his speakership.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), an establishment Republican who frequently publicly pushes liberal positions and is one of Boehner’s closest pals, said, according to the Associated Press, that he doesn’t think Boehner’s decision to pass big bills with Democratic votes is a “new normal.”
“But he conceded the Republican-led Congress faces even tougher choices ahead, including another debt limit showdown this year, in which scores of conservatives are unlikely to help,” the AP wrote this week.
It remains to be seen what happens moving forward, but for now Boehner—thanks to a little bit of luck with bad weather sending Congress home early for the week—he seems to be in the clear. But who knows what will happen come Monday.