House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), an ally of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the upcoming Speakership elections, tells reporters that he thinks any GOP House member who doesn’t back McCarthy on the floor should be kicked out of the GOP to go form their own third party.
“We’ve been down this road several times and at some point you have to realize how elections work, how the Congress functions and how—what’s laid out clearly in the Constitution as a Democratic Republic,” Nunes says.
Several conservative House members are considering bucking McCarthy on the floor of the House of Representatives. “So you have to caucus as parties and if you don’t like what happened in your party you have to leave and go start your own party. Which is kind of what’s happened anyway, and it’s fine. They have every right to do that.”
McCarthy is presumably going to win at least 125 votes on Thursday for Speaker of the House, which would make him the GOP conference’s designated candidate—essentially a nominee of sorts—but House conservatives could band together to deny anyone the Speakership on the floor of the House on Oct. 29 when the full House votes for a replacement to outgoing Speaker John Boehner.
To win there, McCarthy—or whoever else wins the nomination of the GOP conference if one of the other two candidates House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) or Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL), the former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, wins the nod—would need to get 218 votes from the full House on the floor. Democrats are unlikely to help any GOP candidate across the finish line, so the nominee would need 218 GOP votes—and since there are 247 Republican members, he could only afford to lose 29 members.
In conference, Nunes said, McCarthy is likely to easily win.
“He needs 50 percent plus one,” to win there, Nunes told reporters, adding: “A respectable number is 50 percent plus one for anybody who understands how a democratic republic system works in a two-party system. If you don’t want to be part of the party, and you want to vote for someone else, then you have to go create your own party. That’s how the process works.”
“I’m confident that he’s going to get [at least] 50 percent plus one,” Nunes said of McCarthy’s chances in conference on Thursday.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he added when asked if he expects that to happen on just one ballot.
Nunes’ harsh comments came outside the Capitol Hill Club on Capitol Hill next to the Republican National Committee (RNC) headquarters—where Nunes was about to hold a fundraiser a room over from where McCarthy, Chaffetz and Webster were meeting with a bloc of about 40 to 50 House conservatives across four separate collectives of those conservatives. McCarthy, Chaffetz and Webster both met with several members from the House Freedom Caucus, the Conservative Opportunity Society, the House Liberty Caucus and the House Tea Party Caucus to make their pitch to conservatives.
Nunes said he believes there “should be” a conference rule enforced that states anyone who doesn’t vote for the designee of the GOP conference on the House floor should be barred from remaining a member of the House GOP conference.
When a reporter in the press scrum noted that such a rule isn’t enforced at this time, Nunes replied:
I know, I know. That’s one of the areas where I disagree with the current leadership,” Nunes said. “I think you have to have party discipline. If not you could just do this all day long. These guys aren’t the only geniuses who have figured this out. If I want I could do the same kind of thing.
“For a hundred and some years, we’ve never had this problem,” Nunes added.
Throughout his comments to reporters for nearly 15 full minutes, Nunes kept repeating his plan to oust the Republicans who vote their conscience from the House GOP conference.
“I actually have no problem, like I was saying earlier, if—the way our system works in a Democratic Republic is you run for office,” Nunes said.
We’re going to have that on Thursday in the caucus. But if you vote on the House floor, then you have to vote for your party nominee. If you don’t, then you need to go form your own party which is fine. I would strongly encourage those who don’t want to be part of a caucus structure in our own party—they should go form their own party.
If the conservatives left the GOP to form their own third party—something highly unlikely to actually happen—the Democratic Party would likely end up having more members in the House of Representatives than any other party. When asked about the plurality for Democrats that Nunes’ plan would hand to the other side by Breitbart News, Nunes replied that he’s okay with that because Democrats still wouldn’t be able to get the job done without a majority.
“A plurality doesn’t win it,” Nunes said.
I’m just saying that’s the process. I have no problem with people who are here wanting to vote their conscience. If they enter into the party caucus and they don’t like who the party chooses because both times we’ve had this before with Boehner, nobody even ran against him. So this time we’ll see how this plays out. I would hope the two people who do not win will come out and say now we have to unite and now we have to go to the floor at the end of the month and support the party.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), one of the conservatives who has been fighting for reforms in a new leadership team, told Breitbart News in his own press scrum after the meeting that Nunes’ plan doesn’t “make any sense.”
“Does he want to be in the minority?” Massie said when asked to respond to Nunes’ comments.
But you still need 218 on the floor right, so if you kick 30 Republicans out of the majority, then you’re in the minority I’m afraid – it doesn’t make any sense. By the way I don’t think any of us have never proposed to kick any of them out of the conference, even though they vote for abortions – they vote for gun control – not saying him specifically, but there are members of conference that don’t support the Republican platform and we’ve never even hinted that they shouldn’t be in the party.
These kinds of comments from Nunes could be extraordinarily problematic as McCarthy aims to shore up enough support from the entire House GOP conference including conservatives rather than just from the moderate wing as he’s aiming to get 218 GOP votes for the Speakership. It’s unclear at this time whether McCarthy would support Nunes’ plan to cleanse the GOP of any conservative dissenters from House Republican leadership.