Exclusive–John Boehner Embarrassed: His Whip Team Couldn’t Find Votes to Reelect Him Speaker Last Week

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

House Speaker John Boehner had been planning to call up on the House floor last week a measure from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) that would have removed him as Speaker of the House if it succeeded—intending to embarrass Meadows—but abandoned the plan after his entire leadership structure learned that they did not have the votes to re-elect him as Speaker before the August recess.

“[House Majority Leader Kevin] McCarthy was making phone calls—he was whipping it—and so was [House Majority Whip] Steve Scalise,” a senior conservative movement leader who’s had many personal and direct discussions with various House GOP members about this told Breitbart News in an interview last week.

“I know members personally who were called by Steve Scalise. So they had the entire leadership whip team frantically making phone calls to members to whip the vote because they wanted to attempt to embarrass Meadows and call the vote [on Wednesday last week] so it’s not hanging over Boehner’s head.

“What they found out was the exact opposite. They found out bad things would happen, that literally they would be calling the vote without knowing what would happen. Therefore, they did not call the vote and now they have this issue hanging over John Boehner’s head for the next five weeks.”

“Yes, I can confirm at least three members were whipped: Two of whom voted against the Speaker and one of whom voted for the Speaker on Jan. 6,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), one of the cosponsors of Meadows’ measure, told Breitbart News in a phone interview. “I can confirm three of them were whipped.”

“Steve Stivers was calling around, and Steve Scalise and Patrick McHenry,” a House GOP member added. “All three of them were involved in the whipping process. Whipping can be trying to convince somebody and whipping can be taking a whip count. In this case, I think it was just a whip count—a sort of a barometer reading.”

Boehner’s office, McCarthy’s office, Scalise’s office and the offices of Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Patrick McHenry (R-NC)—allies of leadership and members of the “whip team”—have not responded to Breitbart News’ requests for comment in response to this matter.

Meadows, the public face of the rebellion, told Breitbart News that while he can’t confirm personally whether whipping occurred because leadership didn’t call him, he has heard the same from his colleagues and conservative movement leaders.

“You hear all kinds of rumors in Washington, D.C., but I can tell you I was not one of the members that they called to whip,” Meadows said. “I can tell you that I did hear from a number of people who had apparently gotten calls—the nature of that was from what I understand was that should they bring up that resolution before we left, then ultimately decided not to do that.

“I wasn’t privy to those conversations and all I have to go on is what’s being reported. I have not seen that reported but I have heard some of that in terms of the chatter. I do know much of the frustration was more with ‘is this the right time? Is this the right tactic?’

“Most of the debate was not that the things in the resolution were inaccurate. You have yet to hear anybody come out and say that the things in that resolution were not factual.”

Boehner’s team was getting ready to move the resolution to the floor—and their move actually backfired, because all of his leadership team now knows he’s too weak to get re-elected unless somehow the political dynamic changes between now and a vote. Of course, with politically hungry people everywhere on Capitol Hill, that means that one of them could turn on Boehner or that conservatives could muscle up the strength to get rid of him.

“The parliamentarian confirmed that the Rules Committee could have put this resolution on the floor the last day we were there,” one GOP member told Breitbart News. “Then the motion to table it could have been introduced as a motion to table it. Whether they intended on doing that or not, I’m not sure. I can’t say what’s in their minds. But I bet they were also concerned that any member might bring it up as a privileged resolution—which can be done.”

The strategy from Meadows and his allies goes something like this: They offered the resolution right before the August recess and knew that there is enough dissatisfaction with Boehner that should he try to bring it to the floor immediately–to shut it down as fast as it came up–he’d walk away without his speakership.

There are 25 members who voted for a Republican alternative at the beginning of this Congress, and now there are plenty more who are disaffected with the tactics of Boehner and his allies in leadership. More members, those who want to replace Boehner suspect, will, over the course of the month of August, come out publicly against Boehner at town hall events and in interviews with media. Unless Democrats bail Boehner out in September or October, if and when such a vote for the speakership would occur, by that point there would be enough members opposed to Boehner’s re-election for him to lose his position.

When the August recess is over, if Meadows wants to—or any other member wants to—they could offer the motion to vacate the chair and remove Boehner as Speaker of the House as a privileged resolution, which means it gets a floor vote in full without the consent of Boehner’s leadership team. That means the Speaker is extraordinarily vulnerable, and his conservative opposition could make a move whenever, wherever they want to—and when they have the votes to remove him from office.

“It caught everybody by surprise. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea,” the conservative movement leader told Breitbart News. “That’s the thing. Even though it caught everyone by surprise, it’s a good idea. There are enough members to vote against him.

“You look at the progression—look at a little over two years ago, how many members voted against him two years ago or 30 months ago? Then you look at how may voted against John Boehner six months ago. How many people voted against the rule [on Obamatrade], right? And you look at the punitive way they’ve tried to deal with these members including guys like Alex Mooney or Ken Buck who voted for Boehner six months ago.

“They have alienated an enormous number of members and they have only increased that number. That number is now greater than the number who voted against the rule and that’s the danger John Boehner is in.”

A moment later, that conservative movement leader added that Americans who want new Republican leadership can pressure their congressmen and congresswomen to issue public statements pledging to vote against Boehner if and when a vote comes up.

“Over the next five weeks if enough grassroots conservatives can voice their frustration with a failed status quo and failed leadership of John Boehner—as members attend town hall meetings after town hall meetings—and when they come back it will be more difficult for John Boehner to keep his Speaker’s gavel,” he said.

“Secondarily, there’s a second element to this—let’s say when they get back, Meadows may not call it up right away because there a series of major legislative issues that will be coming to the fore including the budget, including the potential for the Ex-Im Bank, including immigration reform—which John Boehner desperately wants to make a deal with Barack Obama on.

“So there could be a pivotal moment that John Boehner creates at which point Mark Meadows calls the vote. I believe this sitting out there strengthens the conservative movement because it keeps John Boehner honest.”

Meadows, in his interview with Breitbart News, explained that the measure he put forward outlines several different points—“whereases”—that lay out clearly why the Republican conference is so disaffected with leadership.

“We outlined several different issues we’ve been struggling with within the House like deadlines that make members take uninformed or difficult votes with very little information and the legislative calendar is used that way,” Meadows said. “We lurch from crisis to crisis. We have just a few people that are controlling not only the legislative calendar—which is certainly their right—but really any legislation that comes up has to originate with just a few ideas that originate with just a select few within the conference.

“It’s not the way that our Founding Fathers set it up and it’s really that all members should have a voice in the process and represent whether it’s the 750,000 people I represent in North Carolina or anywhere across the country.

“The majority of Americans believe that Washington, D.C., is broken, and it’s time if we can’t fix it with a majority in both the House and Senate that we look at leadership and either one of two things needs to happen: We either need to change the leader, or the leader needs to change the way that in this case does business. That’s really why we took this step, to have this discussion.”

Massie, who along with Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) has cosponsored the Meadows measure, told Breitbart News he agrees with all the clauses contained within Meadows’ measure.

“I agree with all of the eight ‘whereases’ in the resolution,” Massie said in a phone interview. “In the House of Representatives, we have 434 members who tend to work for the Speaker instead of the Speaker working for the representatives at this point. It’s devolved into a top-down organization and power is being used in ways that’s not conducive to a representative democracy.”

With conservative groups like FreedomWorks and Citizens United, among others, backing the play, that means that members nationwide will likely feel the heat for the next month plus throughout the August recess. There will undoubtedly be videotaped questions of congressmen and congresswomen at town halls across America.

“You got just about 30 members of the house who are doing exactly what they said they’d do,” FreedomWorks’ Adam Brandon told Breitbart News in a phone interview. He said the rest aren’t pursuing the conservative ideals such as spending cuts, real reform, addressing the IRS targeting. “That conservative agenda is getting stifled and ignored,” said Brandon.

According to Brandon, it was the CRomnibus spending bill that really frustrated true conservatives.

“There’s absolutely zero spending reform,” he added. Brandon said what is being discussed in the House is moving is repealing the medical device tax and the Keystone Pipeline.

“This stuff sounds like it’s been written off on K street by K street lobbyists – where’s the stuff the activists want?” Brandon said.

Citizens United’s David Bossie is similarly outraged, writing for Breitbart News in a late July column that he’s furious with Boehner.

“It was grassroots conservatives who put John Boehner in power, and we haven’t seen a positive conservative agenda for America as promised in the last several elections,” Bossie wrote. “Because of Boehner’s failure of leadership and a track record of broken promises, conservatives are ready for new leadership in the U.S. House now. Maybe newly empowered conservatives like Congressman Meadows will lead a revolt and finally take back the people’s House.”

Breitbart News’ Alex Swoyer contributed reporting to this article.


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