Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) says that House GOP leadership–he hasn’t identified anyone in particular–duped him into switching his vote on the procedural measure that set up the 1,774-page, $1.1 trillion cromnibus spending bill backed by House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama to pass.
Stutzman’s statement, released late Thursday evening after the passage of the cromnibus package, decries the bill.
“The CROmnibus bill, over 1,600 pages long, does many things but what is most important is what it does not do,” Stutzman said in the first part of the statement. “It fails to directly address President Obama’s dangerous executive action on immigration and fails to include many of the solutions that could have been passed in January with a Republican House and Senate in an open process.”
The second part of the statement attempts to explain why Stutzman had switched his vote on an earlier procedural rule vote for the bill from a nay to a yea, after the nays had seemed to carry the day.
That procedural vote would have killed the bill right then, which would have been a major embarrassment for Boehner. Those procedural votes normally sail through the House to passage.
Stutzman says he switched his vote on the floor because House GOP leadership–again, he doesn’t name anyone: whether it was Boehner himself, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise or an aide–promised him that if the rule passed, the cromnibus would be replaced by a short-term spending measure. This Continuing Resolution (CR) would last until early next year when the newly elected GOP majority in the Senate takes over.
“Earlier today, I supported the Rule because I was informed by Leadership that the CROmnibus was dead and a short term CR would take its place,” Stutzman said in the statement. “I was very surprised and even more disappointed to see the CROmnibus back on the floor. The American people deserve better.”
All the Democrats who voted on the rule–196 of them–voted against it, and 16 Republicans held the line by voting against the rule too. Democrats were upset about provisions to roll back some Dodd-Frank financial restrictions and the loosening of campaign finance laws that were inserted into the bill. Two Republicans who had originally voted against the rule–Stutzman and Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), a departing congressman who just lost re-election–switched their votes under pressure from leadership.
In an interview with the Detroit News, Bentivolio said Boehner told him: “Kerry you have to change your vote.”
Bentivolio lost a GOP primary this past August to Republican Dave Trott after a tumultuous first term in Congress. The former reindeer farmer used to dress up as Santa Claus. After the vote switch, Boehner ally and House Rules Committee chairman Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)–who provided the material support necessary to pass the bill procedurally–told him “You’re a good man, Santa.”
“Merry Christmas,” Bentivolio replied according to Roll Call, asking Sessions to make sure his staff members get jobs after he leaves Congress.
Bentivolio’s situation is, perhaps, unique. But he’s not accusing leadership of lying to him to get him to switch his vote. Stutzman, the other member who switched, is.
Yet anonymous House GOP leadership aides are casting doubt on Stutzman’s version of events.
“A GOP leadership aide said Stutzman’s account was incorrect and that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) never spoke to him about the bill,” The Hill’s Scott Wong writes, quoting the GOP aide as saying: “We don’t know what he is talking about.”
“An aide to House speaker John Boehner says he made no such pledge,” the National Review’s Joel Gehrke wrote on Thursday afternoon just before 3 p.m., right after the House recessed for several hours while Boehner, Scalise and McCarthy worked GOP members to get the votes necessary to pass the cromnibus bill.
Gehrke’s piece mirror’s what Stutzman would say in his statement after the cromnibus passed.
“I’m hearing from two sources, including one Republican lawmaker, that Representative Marlin Stutzman (R., Ind.) provided one of the final, decisive votes needed to clear a crucial procedural hurdle because House leadership promised to pull the cromnibus and replace it with a short-term continuing resolution that would push the entire funding debate into next year,” Gehrke wrote in the piece.
Stutzman’s office, through spokesman John Stapleton, refused any further comment while exchanging several emails with Breitbart News on Friday. Stutzman also turned down an offer of an interview to discuss his serious allegation against House GOP leadership.
Nonetheless, other highly-connected Capitol Hill sources who wished to remain anonymous say there is an element of truth to what Stutzman is saying. After the time for the vote on the rule ran out on the House floor, the nays had it. The vote count on C-SPAN for several minutes after the 15-minute vote had closed was 212-for 214-against. At that point, the rule was blocked so leadership intensified its efforts to get at least two members to switch sides. Meanwhile, the presiding officer of the House held the vote open longer than normal. Bentivolio and Stutzman were the votes willing to flip.
Sources familiar with what happened tell Breitbart News leadership officials–again it’s unclear whether that’s Boehner himself or others–went to many of the then 18 Republican members who were holding the line against the rule with the same story they told Stutzman.
“I heard about the promise from several sources, and Stutzman wasn’t the only one to whom it was made. He was just the only one who bought it,” said one highly-connected Capitol Hill source.
The nature of the promise, that source said, was that leadership was telling Stutzman and the other members they needed to pass the rule to get a vote on the CR that would replace the cromnibus bill. Most members saw through the ruse, but Stutzman bought it.
“Other Members to whom the promise was made told the Leadership to pound sand,” the source said.
GOP leadership officials from Boehner’s, McCarthy’s and Scalise’s offices haven’t responded to requests for their sides of the story from Breitbart News either. And since Stutzman won’t answer any questions about this, and won’t do any interviews, it’s hard to get a full picture.
But, the major questions moving forward remain for Stutzman: Why did he believe leadership at all on this, when every one of the other GOP members voting against the rule wouldn’t budge? And will he ever trust them again? Speaker Boehner is seeking re-election on Jan. 6. We’ll see if Stutzman supports him.
It’s also worth noting that Americans can’t place the blame solely on Stutzman’s or Bentivolio’s shoulders. While 16 Republicans did hold the line and vote against the rule, 67 Republicans voted against final passage of the bill. So, why did those 51 Republicans who voted against final passage vote for the rule?
All of this comes after Boehner and GOP leadership engaged in procedural chicanery to substantively alter a bill from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) that was supposed to be the cover vote against Obama’s executive amnesty for Republicans last week. Instead, leadership inserted language that actually provides a legal justification for Obama’s executive amnesty into the bill.
Leadership tricked 216 Republicans into voting for the Yoho bill, and in exchange for leadership’s help in passing his bill, Yoho voted for the cromnibus bill on Thursday night. NBC’s Luke Russert Tweeted that Yoho’s vote for the cromnibus “pays leadership back” for the vote on his substantively altered executive amnesty bill.