Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid’s (D-NV), impending retirement brings much excitement for Republicans in Congress. One of the biggest obstacles to the Republican agenda will soon be removed. While this may, for the short term, be a victory for the GOP, the celebration should be tempered, as there are two larger, more obstructive figureheads that stand in the way of the Republican policy agenda, and they come from within.
The 2014 midterm elections that gave Republicans control of the Senate and made Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Senate Majority Leader, Reid’s previous post, are very similar to the 2010 elections that brought John Boehner (R-OH) into his role as Speaker of the House. Both elections were massive rejections of President Barack Obama’s policies and a call to Republican congressional leaders to defend the Constitution and stop Obama’s Executive overreach. However, McConnell and Boehner have not only fallen short in their pursuit of these objectives, they have often stood in the way of these pursuits.
If one were to take a step back and view only the recent major policy measures in Congress, it would be very difficult to tell that the Democrats are not, in fact, still in charge of the legislative branch. It began with the recent omnibus-spending bill that passed Congress in December. Boehner, along with the support of Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as fifty-seven House Democrats passed this bill that permits the Obama administration to fund Obamacare, along with the executive amnesty that will grant legal status to about five million illegal immigrants. It continued again with Boehner’s efforts to shepherd through the DHS funding bill in March that again granted the administration funding for its agenda.
What is particularly upsetting about Boehner’s most recent cave to the Democrats with the DHS funding is how it originated. The House, at first, rejected this bill after it passed McConnell’s Senate. However, Boehner would go out of his way and take advantage of a rarely used House procedural rule to reverse the House’s previous decision that denied funding to the Department of Homeland Security and Obama’s amnesty. Boehner joined with seventy-four other Republicans along with unanimous Democrat support to allow the funding bill to pass.
Actions such as these have come to define Boehner’s relationship with conservatives in Congress. Boehner’s unwillingness to fight tooth and nail against Obama’s policy agenda coupled with his willingness to join forces with every Democrat in Congress led to a legitimate challenge to his role as Speaker earlier this year. He narrowly gained the majority he needed despite the opposition of twenty-five Republicans, the largest amount of opposition within a party’s Speaker vote in over one hundred years.
The number of congressmen who oppose the Speaker’s approach may, in fact, be larger than the twenty-five that voted against him. Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), a noted critic of the Speaker, as well as the head of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress and one of the twenty-five who stood up to Boehner attributes the low number to intimidation. He said, “If you are found to be voting against the speaker, you don’t get the chairmanship you thought you were going to get, you don’t get to move up, your bill doesn’t get heard on the floor.”
Boehner’s recent actions seem to show quite clearly that Congressman Huelskamp is correct in his assessment of the Speaker. Representative Daniel Webster (R-FL), along with Rich Nugent (R-FL), were removed from the highly influential House Rules Committee after voting against Boehner. Additionally, Randy Weber (R-TX) had his name removed as a co-sponsor of legislation recently after casting his vote against Boehner. Also, Boehner canceled Representative Steve King’s (R-IA) trip to Egypt to meet with Egyptian President al-Sisi. An anonymous source close to the Speaker was quoted as saying, “Those rewards aren’t going to be handed out to members who oppose the broader GOP team on a regular basis.”
In other words: If you oppose the Speaker, you will get marginalized.
For readers wondering where McConnell plays into all of this, the Senate has punted time and again on the same legislation that would put a stop to Barack Obama’s policies. To be fair, Senator McConnell has only been in the majority for a couple of months and has not had as much time as Boehner to build as impressive a resume when it comes to opposing conservative policy initiatives.
However, McConnell certainly does his best to undermine strong-minded conservatives when he can. McConnell constantly badmouths lawmakers who are willing to take drastic measures to defeat the Obama agenda, namely, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). McConnell, at a recent dinner in Washington, talked about how Ted Cruz would throw himself in front of a train to stop Obamacare in its tracks, then adding, “That idea has some merit to it.”
Boehner and McConnell established that their tenure in the Republican leadership is not dedicated to stopping Obama’s executive overreach. In fact, Boehner and McConnell’s leadership is the epitome of career politicians everywhere: seizing power, neglecting their campaign promises, and using it to maintain power through mushy modesty.
This strategy did not work out well for former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-VA), whose constituents historically jettisoned him out of office in a primary election, instead choosing Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA), one of the twenty-five opponents to Boehner in the Speaker election.
The time has come for the Republican Party to relegate people like Boehner and McConnell, who use their position to not only refuse to fulfill their promise to stifle the Obama agenda, but also to smother any bold politician with the will to actually do so, to roles like the one Cantor now plays. It is time to elevate promise-keepers like Congressman Brat, Congressman Huelskamp, and Senator Cruz into positions of power if the Republican Party is truly serious about defending the constitution and eliminating President Obama’s executive obtrusiveness.