Rep. Mick Mulvaney isn’t exactly a John Boehner crony. The Republican from South Carolina supported the revolt two years ago against the Speaker by voting for no one, and had an opportunity to join yesterday’s as well. Instead, he voted for Boehner and then lashed out at the conspirators for their lack of organization, preparation — and honesty. If they had really wanted change rather than a publicity stunt, they would have challenged Boehner at November’s Republican conference, where Boehner won an unanimous endorsement instead:
I learned two years ago that people lie about how they are going to vote. And you cannot go into this kind of fight with people you do not trust. We walked onto the floor two years ago with signed pledges – handwritten promises – from more than enough people to deny Boehner his job. But when it came time to vote, almost half of those people changed their minds – including some of those who voted against Boehner today. Fool me once, shame on you… Today was even worse: there were never enough votes to oust Boehner to begin with. On top of that, some people who had publicly said in the past that they wouldn’t vote for Boehner did just that. This was an effort driven as much by talk radio as by a thoughtful and principled effort to make a change. It was poorly considered and poorly executed, and I learned first-hand that is no way to fight a battle. This coup today was bound to fail. And in fact, it failed worse than I expected, falling 11 votes short of deposing the Speaker. At least two years ago we only failed by six. I also learned that the Floor of the House is the wrong place to have this battle. The hard truth is that we had an election for Speaker in November – just among Republicans. THAT was the time to fight. But not a single person ran against Boehner. Not one. If they had, we could’ve had a secret ballot to find out what the true level of opposition to John Boehner was. In fact, we could’ve done that as late as Monday night, on a vote of “no confidence” in the Speaker. But that didn’t happen…and at least one of the supposed challengers to Boehner today didn’t even go to the meeting last night. That told me a lot.
Mulvaney was also mystified about the choice of alternative who got the most votes from the mutineers:
Some people wrote me encouraging me to vote for Louie Gohmert. I like Louie, but let’s be clear: Louie Gohmert was – is – never ever going to be Speaker of the House. I respect his passion, but he isn’t a credible candidate. That was proved today by the fact that he got three votes, despite all the national media attention he managed to grab. My colleague who got the most anti-Boehner votes was Daniel Webster of Florida who got 12 votes. I like Daniel. He is a nice guy, and a good thinker…but his lifetime Heritage Action score is 60% (by comparison, mine is 91%). And this was supposed to be the savior of the conservative movement? Would the House really have been more conservative if he had won?
Matt Lewis was similarly unimpressed by the alternative presented, and the lack of planning that produced it:
He was brave! — he was daring! — he was an insurgent! What he wasn’t was terribly conservative. In fact, it turns out that Webster has earned just a 56 percent rating on Heritage Action’s scorecard. Was supporting this failed effort worth “burning up the phone lines” over? For all the talk about wanting a real conservative as speaker, defining victory as the installment of someone who earned a failing grade in conservatism class seems absurd. (In fairness, Webster has a 67 percent rating from the Club for Growth, so we can give him a “D+” on fiscal issues.)
This was my exact problem with the revolt yesterday. Had the conservatives organized themselves effectively — and they had two years to do so, after their failure in 2013 — they would have had a viable and reliably conservative alternative along with a new game plan for the 114th Session of the House, both ready to roll out at the November conference. They didn’t have any of that, despite telling constituents for months that they planned to oppose Boehner as Speaker in the next term. Gohmert, Webster, and their allies just decided to do a last-minute, ad hoc campaign. It was doomed to failure, nothing more than a publicity stunt. Given that, why should anyone have thought that this group would have provided effective leadership for the next two years? Mulvaney certainly didn’t, having had a ringside seat for their half-baked maneuverings twice. They may have gotten 25 votes yesterday, but that’s only 10% of the Republican caucus. If they had taken a more serious and intelligent approach, they might have won the confidence of their colleagues, who now have seen this part of the conservative wing shoot itself in the foot twice. Mulvaney predicted that they would pay a price for it, because that’s what happened the last time, too:
Some people tried to argue that voting against Boehner would give conservatives leverage, or somehow force him to lead in a more conservative fashion, even if the coup attempt failed. All I can say to that is that the exact opposite happened two years ago: conservatives were marginalized, and Boehner was even freer to work with moderates and Democrats. My guess is that the exact same thing will happen again now. And I fail to see how that helps anything that conservatives know needs to be done in Washington.
The Hill reports that the group wanted to send a message that they would not cooperate with Boehner in the new session:
The anti-Boehner crowd’s message was simple: Don’t expect any cooperation in the 114th Congress — even with Republicans in charge of the Senate and holding the biggest majority in the House since the Truman administration. “The American people are very upset by this leadership. I mean, I have not had this many phone calls since the shutdown of the government. It’s just unbelievable,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who voted for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and was one of the architects of the “fire Boehner” campaign. “The 25 of us who voted the way that we did represented the frustration of the American people,” he added. “I’m surprised we didn’t get 30, to be honest with you.”
Boehner clearly got that message, and he’s responding in kind. I find that petty and counterproductive, but Boehner didn’t fire the first shots here either. In order to have enough leverage to get control of the agenda, Boehner has to get his caucus under control, and the retribution will only prolong the turmoil — but the mutineers have to acknowledge that they lost the vote badly and wound up on the margins of this fight and get back to business, too. They have two years to put together an intelligent and attractive alternative to Boehner. Maybe they’ll use that time wisely, rather than waste it like they did the last time. Update: Boehner’s talking with the caucus to find a resolution to the internecine fight, according to Reuters, calling it a “family conversation.” Let’s hope it gets settled quickly. Update: Rep. Jeff Miller says one alleged act of retribution never actually happened:
The head of the House Veterans Affairs Committee insisted Wednesday that a member of his panel was not stripped of a subcommittee chairmanship for voting against Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) for Speaker “I make the appointments, and that appointment was never made,” Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) told reporters following a meeting of GOP House members. … When pressed if he had told Huelskamp he would head a subpanel, Miller replied: “No, no.” He called reports of the retaliation “false,” adding “it would be nice if people, before the print stories, would ask me.”
Update: “Internecine,” not intranecine. I’ve fixed it. Update: Our friend Mark Levin says we need to update our post, arguing that Mulvaney claimed in his post to both have voted against Boehner and refused to cast a vote for Speaker. Mulvaney didn’t cast a vote for Speaker in 2013, which arguably can be considered a vote against Boehner, although it’s more passive than an actual vote for someone else. What other choices were there? For the record, the highest vote-getter in that 2013 vote besides Boehner and Pelosi was not-exactly-a-grassroots-favorite Eric Cantor, who got a whopping three votes. Allen West got two. “Not voting” actually came in third at six votes, one of which was Boehner and three others were Democrats (Labrador was the third Republican, and he voted for Boehner this time too). Four other Republicans cast votes for four other candidates, which shows just how well organized that effort was. By the time the roll call came to Mulvaney, the collapse of the mutiny would have been apparent — and unlike some of the other mutineers, he didn’t switch back to Boehner.
That attempt to unseat Boehner was even more badly planned and executed as this one was, and nothing Mark writes in his Facebook post addresses that, which was Mulvaney’s actual argument, and mine.