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Meadows move to depose speaker fractures N.C. delegation

RALEIGH — U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-3rd District, is a staunch supporter of the efforts of fellow North Carolinian Mark Meadows (11th District) to unseat House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Jones says Boehner is out of touch with Republican Party principles, rules by strong-arming members and parceling out campaign funds to favorites from his political action committee and is afflicted with pettiness. But the rest of North Carolina's congressional delegation is far from united on the second-term representative's tactical maneuver to depose the speaker this week.

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In contrast, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th District, scolded Meadows for invoking a rare procedural move to oust Boehner. “Rather than dwelling on the divisive behavior of one member, I remain focused on working with all of my colleagues on the priorities of the people of North Carolina’s Fifth District,” Foxx said.

The fracture in North Carolina’s GOP congressional delegation over Meadows’ introduction of House Resolution 385 mirrors the mood in Washington among the Republican Caucus. Political analyst David McLennan is not surprised.

“You’ve seen it in the last couple of years that a lot of dissatisfaction has been expressed about Boehner’s leadership, wanting him to stand up to the president more, be more aggressive,” said McLennan, lead faculty member of the Institute for Political Leadership at Meredith College.

McLennan noted there was an attempted coup in 1997 against then-Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and that in 2010, some Democrats opposed former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, including then-U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-11th District, who launched an unsuccessful bid for the minority leader post.

McLennan said the present dustup “sort of elevates Meadows’ stature in the more conservative, more firebrand side of the Republican caucus.” Unless Boehner is forced out, which McLennan doubts will happen, this public display of dissatisfaction should erode the speaker’s power only slightly.

Meadows’ resolution would declare the House speaker position vacant. Among other allegations it states that Boehner is attempting to “consolidate power and centralize decision-making,” while causing “the power of Congress to atrophy” through inaction, making it “subservient” to the executive and judicial branches.

“I am carefully considering this and all measures that come before the Rules Committee,” committee chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said of Meadows’ resolution. Sessions’ committee determines the vast majority of measures that come before the full House.

“I believe it’s important to note that if at any time a member wants the House to vote on a new speaker, any member can force a vote to see if a majority of the members agree,” Sessions said. “Mr. Meadows’ resolution could have been constructed in a way to get a vote on the floor, but he chose not to do that.”

“There are several ways that this could be handled,” said a senior GOP aide. Sessions could ignore it, report it with a motion to table the measure — meaning to reject it — or a member could introduce a measure to the full House that would force an immediate vote, bypassing the Rules Committee.

“Anyone sitting in Congress watching what’s going on knows Washington politics is broken,” said 13th District Rep. George Holding.

“I understand Mark’s frustration. He’s had disagreements with the leadership on issues, and so have I. And I understand he’s sending the leadership a message loud and clear with his motion to vacate the chair,” Holding said.

“That said, I also understand there’s a big difference between saying ‘I don’t like John Boehner,’ and saying who would make a better Speaker,” Holding said.

“I agree with Congressman Meadows’ concerns, but I disagree on the process. This isn’t the right tactic,” said 9th District Rep. Robert Pittenger. “When you’re on a team, I don’t think it’s helpful to sit there and throw rocks at your leadership. That doesn’t move the ball down the field at all.”

House Republicans “have been a firewall against President Obama’s radical policies,” Pittenger said. “To say that we should flip a switch and turn everything around at once is an unreasonable expectation.”

“I’ve never found it wise to publicly discuss any matter pertaining to a fellow colleague. Furthermore, it’s critically important that we don’t get distracted from the real issues at hand,” said 7th District Rep. David Rouzer.

“In September we will take the most significant vote that has come before Congress in recent memory. Our focus throughout August should be on the administration’s horrific agreement with Iran,” Rouzer said. “If Congress does not defeat this agreement, there will be severe consequences for all of us — and every generation to come.”

Rep. Richard Hudson of the 8th District did not respond to a request for comment. He did tell Bloomberg News that he opposed Meadows’ resolution, agreeing with Rouzer that it would divert attention from the Iran agreement.

The remaining members of the Republican congressional delegation — Reps. Renee Ellmers, 2nd District; Mark Walker, 6th District; and Patrick McHenry, 10th District, did not respond to requests for comment.

“Representative Meadows has said he wants to have a ‘family discussion’ about making sure all Republican voices are heard. If that was his intent, he should have brought his concerns before the House Republican Conference instead of publicly dividing the party, which only helps Democrats and hurts conservatives,” Foxx said.

House Republicans “will continue to advance conservative solutions that build an opportunity economy, empowering all Americans to pursue their own future, reach their full potential, and achieve a better life,” Foxx said.

Jones said Boehner is “a good person” but “not a conservative. I think that he is more willing to make deals with special interests and Democrats than he is with his own conservative wing.”

Boehner and his staff “try to coerce people” into votes, Jones said. For instance, Meadows temporarily was removed as chairman of a House subcommittee when he voted against the Trade Promotion Authority legislation that Boehner supported.

Jones said Meadows “is a man of integrity. He’s doing what he thinks is right, and I support him. I think he’s doing what’s right, too, and there are others … and I think you’ll see our names go on the resolution.”

Jones concedes it’s “a tall mountain to climb” to oust the speaker, but reminded that in 1989 he was one of the 20 Democratic General Assembly members in Raleigh who toppled Liston Ramsey, a four-term state House Speaker from Madison County.

That movement coalesced over seven months prior to the January swearing-in, Jones said. He believes Meadows’ effort is intended to build a similar movement deliberately over time. Part of that process, he added, could start over the August recess. Jones hopes grassroots Republicans will contact their representatives urging them to support Meadows’ resolution when they return to Washington.

A service of Zenger News.