More than a week ago there was a procedural vote in the lower chamber where the leadership was pushing in support of Barack Obama’s request for fast-track authority on the big Pacific trade deal. When the votes were counted, 34 Republicans bucked the leadership, saying that they were working too closely with Democrats, and voted against the measure. One of those was Mark Meadows, the chairman of the Government Operations subcommittee within the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Or rather, I should say the former chairman of the subcommittee. (The Hill)
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has removed Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) from his post as a subcommittee chairman, according to a Chaffetz spokesperson.
The removal comes after Meadows bucked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in opposing a vote that would give President Obama expanded powers to “fast track” his trade agenda.
The fast-track measure eventually passed Thursday after a second vote on the issue.
For his part, Chaffetz is remaining fairly vague about the reasons for the change. (From Politico)
“Sometimes the coach needs to make a change on the field,” Chaffetz (R-Utah) told POLITICO Saturday. “He’s still a valuable contributor, and I really like Mark Meadows, he’s a good person. But I need to make a change.”
Losing a subcommittee chairmanship midway through a congressional session is among the most serious punishments thus far in Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) majority. Boehner and his leadership team have grown frustrated with Republicans who vote against the procedural “rule” motion. Those votes — which allow the Republican leadership to bring a bill up for debate and a vote — typically fall along party lines. But a group of conservatives has voted against the measures, mostly in protest of Boehner’s leadership. Republican leadership sees the move as unacceptable —akin to ceding power to Democrats.
Politico is drawing the lines between the graph points here, but it’s without confirmation. I checked with a couple of sources on the hill after this came out and so far both the Speaker and the Majority Leader are firm in their position that this was just a decision by Chaffetz and not handed down from on high. That seems like it would be a fairly unusual move, though, particularly given Meadows’ history as a conservative favorite and a thorn in the side of the leadership. This was bound to create some waves.
Given the subject of the votes in question, everyone seems to be treading rather carefully. Republicans in general (with a few notable exceptions) seem to be pretty much gung ho on the free trade question and want to see the deal go forward. But there’s also a reflexive tendency to keep your distance from the Democrat leadership and make sure things are done “our way” no matter what the eventual goal may be. Bucking the leadership checks a box on one side, but if it looks like it’s slowing the trade deal there’s some pull from the other direction.
So how does this shake out? As Politico notes, 33 other members took that vote but haven’t received any sort of “punishment” yet, if that’s what we want to call it. Three other members were booted off the whip team last week, allegedly for similar reasons. So our exit question is… do you find this to be a net positive or negative?