Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), one of the 28 Republicans who publicly supports replacing House Speaker John Boehner with a Republican alternative, told Breitbart News on Tuesday that Boehner does not have enough support within the Republican conference to win re-election with just Republican votes.
Therefore, Mulvaney said, should there be a vote on a privileged resolution on a motion to vacate the chair of the House of Representatives—a fancy term for a vote to remove Boehner from the speakership—the only way Boehner can keep his job is if Democrats vote for him to bail him out.
“The math depends on the Democrats, doesn’t it?” Mulvaney told Breitbart News in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. “I think if all the Democrats were to vote against John, he’d lose the Speakership, but I don’t think anyone knows where the Democrats stand.”
Technically, the magic number for Boehner to lose re-election without a Democrat infusion or some kind of shenanigans where members don’t show up to vote or something akin to that is 29 Republicans voting against him. There are 28 Republicans publicly opposed to Boehner’s re-election, but many more privately who have confirmed that they can’t vote for Boehner to Mulvaney and others. Many more are teetering on the edge of becoming public, and Boehner’s team is certainly terrified, as Politico’s Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan detailed on Tuesday morning.
Boehner’s spokesman Kevin Smith—who is known to attack reporters, and did so in a statement this summer accusing Roll Call’s Matt Fuller of pushing “propaganda” for the conservative House Freedom Caucus—did not respond to a request for comment in response to this revelation. A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also did not respond when asked if she would allow any Democrats to vote for Boehner if and when such a vote takes place. That spokesman, Drew Hammill, previously told Roll Call that the division in the House GOP conference indicates a party that’s unwilling to lead the country—but he wouldn’t signal which way Pelosi would swing her party.
“As the American people look to Congress for solutions to the challenges they face, they increasingly see a Republican Congress dominated by obstruction, distraction and dysfunction,” Hammill told Roll Call in July. “For more than 200 days, this Republican Congress has failed to advance any measure to create jobs and growth in our country, and leaves for August early with the prospect of only more shutdowns and manufactured crises in store this fall. The American people deserve better.”
If Boehner needs Democrat votes to win re-election, Mulvaney said that would put Republicans in Congress in an unprecedented situation.
“Everybody is scratching their heads about that one,” Mulvaney said. “Do you want a leader of your party who is in that position because of support from the other party? It’s not a question I think we’ve dealt with before. It certainly would be cause for some internal discussion and I don’t honestly know if John would even want to put us in that position.”
Mulvaney said he also believes that if and when such a situation arises, that Boehner would consider resigning from the speakership.
“I certainly think he would consider it, though I don’t know John that well,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t know if he would want to continue to be Speaker if he has to rely on the Democrats to keep the position.”
Mulvaney praised Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) for offering the initial resolution with the motion to vacate the chair—and explained why Meadows did it. Mulvaney said:
Mark’s motion which was filed in July, I’ve sort of been a touchstone for this—and if you ask Mark, and I have, why he did it in July it’s because of what’s coming up ahead in September: Planned Parenthood, the Iran agreement, the debt ceiling, the Budget Control Act spending levels. There are so many things that Congress will take up that are important to conservatives that it was Mark’s intention to send a message to leadership that they be held accountable if they didn’t do the right thing.
Mulvaney also told Breitbart News that Boehner must disavow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plans to fund Planned Parenthood, especially after recent videos came out showing the organization engages in the practice of selling aborted baby body parts to the highest bidder. Mulvaney said:
If John wants to tie his wagon [on Planned Parenthood] to Mitch McConnell that could be real troublesome. What John needs to do is distance himself from Mitch McConnell and call on McConnell to change the filibuster rules. If the Speaker of the House would come and say the Democrats are obstructing, we need to at least make them talk the filibuster and go back to the original intention of that rule and not allow some arcane rules of the Senate block the Constitution, that would be a move in the right direction for John. From a certain perspective, he has to choose between the Republican base and Mitch McConnell. Now I don’t know which way [he’s going to go]. I think the Planned Parenthood vote may tell us which side he picks.
When it comes to Iran, Mulvaney explained why the Congressional leadership is currently not treating President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with the leading state sponsor of terrorism as a treaty. He said:
I think that goes back to something way down in the weeds that’s fairly arcane and you may know more about it than I do. But as I understand it this is the argument: Some in the Senate took the position that this was a treaty and that it required 67 votes to affirm. The administration took the position that it was not a treaty because it did not require a change in American statute, U.S. Code. There was some disagreement from a legal perspective between the White House and the Senate over what constituted a treaty and that the agreement we have now is the compromise between those two positions. I don’t know—I wasn’t involved in that. But my understanding in that the administration believes that Congress should have no say at all.
Mulvaney also said that a lot of the angst against leadership stems from both Boehner’s and McConnell’s surrender of the congressional power of the purse to Obama’s executive branch:
In the House—I can only speak for the House—the amount of control we have is the power of the purse. If we’re not willing to talk about a lapse in appropriations over selling dead baby parts I doubt seriously we’ll have a discussion about a lapse in appropriations over a nuclear-powered Iran. We’re afraid to shut the government down. We gave up the power of the purse about four and a half years ago. If you’re not willing to go to the mat on defunding anything, then you are not willing to enforce the power of the purse.
Mulvaney said he’s not entirely sure on what schedule such a vote to remove Boehner would come up—but it could technically come at any time since any member can offer a resolution to vacate the chair as a privileged resolution and get a vote on it on the House floor fairly quickly.
Mulvaney said when asked when specifically he thinks such a motion would come up for a vote:
If I could predict the future I’d probably be doing your job better than mine. I don’t know. I think that, let me put it to you this way: the pressure from the base to bring up that motion will grow with each additional disappointment that our House leadership delivers. And to a certain extent, that pressure will also grow with each disappointment that the Senate leadership delivers. So I think the base doesn’t know if they can change Mitch McConnell but they have learned there is a way to replace John Boehner. Every mistake that McConnell makes will flow to Boehner. So that’s why John has got some difficult decisions to make on how we wants to either stick with the base and the party or stick with Mitch McConnell.
Mulvaney said he believes the grassroots across America have been instrumental in getting Congress to this tipping point:
We’ve all heard the same stories reported in the press that on the day Meadows filed his motion some of John Boehner’s staff that wanted to take a vote right away—and that one or two members of Boehner’s staff said ‘well maybe we should whip this a little bit to find out’ and they found out that they didn’t have the votes. They found out that if all the Democrats voted against the Speaker that they would have lost the Speakership on July 30 of 2015. So clearly even folks who like Boehner will find it difficult to vote for him. I have had friends of mine from the moderate wing of our party say they just can’t afford to vote for John again, that it’s just not worth it, that it’s not worth getting a primary back home over a speakership vote. [They believe that] that vote should be inconsequential. That vote should be a unifying vote of the party, not a dividing vote. Clearly if you’ve already got 28 folks like me who have said they can’t vote for John again, who have said they would vote to vacate, there’s got to be a lot more than that that are simply unwilling or unable to say that publicly.
He added that when America has billionaire Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina polling at more than 50 percent in most polls—and when throwing in Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) more than 60 percent—there’s a “rejection” of the political establishment going on. Mulvaney said:
It’s a rejection of the current Republican establishment, yes. You’ve got a guy who up until recently was pro-choice, and folks don’t care. Who up until recently was a Democrat and folks don’t care. Just up until recently knew he was for a single-payer healthcare system and folks don’t care. They just know he’s not establishment. He may be establishment and they don’t care—this is a guy who used to write a bunch of checks. They just don’t want the same ordinary course of business, they don’t want the same names who have been running the party for the last 30 years. They’re sick and tired of it. It may be irrational exuberance, but it certainly is exuberance for Donald Trump, for Ben Carson and for Carly Fiorina.
Mulvaney said the American people can help him and Meadows by calling their Congressmen–and by calling Boehner’s office asking him to lead again. Mulvaney said:
The folks need to call—obviously—get involved and talk to their own member of Congress and tell them how they feel. I’d rather deal with the issues first before the politics. I would much rather have people call Boehner’s office and say stand firm on Planned Parenthood than I would have them call their member of Congress and say get rid of John Boehner. I’m more interested in the end result—I don’t care who the speaker is, as long as we get to defund Planned Parenthood. I don’t care who the speaker is as long as we abide by the Budget Control Act limits. I don’t care who the speaker is as long as we are reasonable in dealing with the debt ceiling. But if the three of those things break against fiscal conservatives and against social conservatives, you got to ask yourself why we have the leadership we do? And I want to be clear than when I say ‘leadership’ I’m meaning both McConnell and Boehner—it’s the GOP leadership, and it’s not just Boehner. It’s McConnell too. McConnell has got to do something about these filibuster rules.
Mulvaney noted that he has a hard time answering his constituents back in South Carolina what the difference is between McConnell’s GOP Senate and the Senate when it was run by now Minority Leader Harry Reid under Democratic control.
“Right now, when I go back home and talk to people over August, they ask me what’s the difference between a Mitch McConnell controlled Senate and a Harry Reid controlled Senate—and I don’t have an answer for them,” Mulvaney said. “Mitch McConnell better start delivering on those promises or change for the better if we are going to put Republicans in charge of the Senate. Trey Gowdy and I raised a lot of money in South Carolina for Republican campaigns for Senate. Now the people who wrote the checks are asking us why they did it and I don’t have a good answer for them.”