Mulvaney Unwittingly Damns Conservative Colleagues As Unserious - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Mulvaney Unwittingly Damns Conservative Colleagues As Unserious

Amid a great deal of publicity about a brewing conservative coup in the U.S. House of Representatives that would dispatch to a back bench the current Speaker John Boehner came Tuesday’s vote, in which the efforts of multiple would-be revolutionaries — Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Ted Yoho and Daniel Webster of Florida — produced no tangible results.

Boehner managed to win the Speakership again with 216 votes, needing just 201 since for various reasons only 401 of the 434 current House members (following New York Republican Michael Grimm’s resignation) were in the chamber for the vote. Some 24 Republicans voted for another candidate — 12 for Webster, three for Gohmert, two apiece for Yoho and Rep. Jim Jordan, and one apiece for Sens. Rand Paul and Jeff Sessions, Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Jeff Duncan, and Trey Gowdy. Another Republican, Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, voted present.

And among Boehner’s 201 votes were several Republicans who had been party to previous attempts at unseating him. One of those, Raul Labrador of Idaho, had actually run for Speaker against Boehner in 2013.

But another former insurgent, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, was also in Boehner’s corner. When Mulvaney took to his website to explain why, some difficult truths got an airing that many conservatives who have lost faith in Boehner and wish for a new Speaker (this writer included) ought to hear.

“What I learned two years ago factored heavily in my decision today not to join the mutiny,” Mulvaney said. “First, 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.”

He continued, “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.”

Mulvaney also mentioned that in November, when the best opportunity for a conservative revolt could have taken place since an election via secret ballot could be held, there was not a single candidate against Boehner. And Monday night, when the Republican caucus had an opportunity to hold a “no confidence” vote on the Speaker, no vote was demanded.

“The truth is,” said Mulvaney, “there was no conservative who could beat John Boehner. Period. People can ignore that, or they can wish it away, but that is reality.”  

There are two things to say about Mulvaney’s statements. First, they’re absolutely true. And second, it’s an indictment not just of the conservatives in the House but of Mulvaney himself that his statements are true.

It is unquestionably a fact that there is no viable conservative candidate in the House who can best John Boehner in an election for Speaker. We know this because none has successfully done so. Perhaps someday — and hopefully that day will come soon — someone will emerge. But when three Republicans ran against Boehner and combined they still fell 11 votes short of denying him a second ballot (and one of the three, Webster, isn’t particularly conservative), we can say with safety there is no one from the conservative wing of the Republican caucus ready to mount a serious challenge.

Louie Gohmert is a staunch conservative and a faithful defender of the Constitution, but after announcing with much fanfare on the Sunday shows that he was running for Speaker it turns out he didn’t even work the phones to campaign. That meant his bid was a waste of time — and he actually hurt the conservative cause by leading himself and fellow Reps. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma and Randy Weber of Texas, who voted for him, into a position to lose committee assignments and other positions of power in the House. That kind of retaliation has already come to Webster and fellow Floridian Rich Nugent (who voted for Webster); both were bounced from the House Rules Committee after the vote. More retribution is certain.

In a Hannity appearance on Fox News Tuesday night, Gohmert said the attempted coup was as late as this week without any candidates to force a second ballot, and the last-minute candidacies of himself, Yoho, and Webster developed because it was decided without an actual human being to run against Boehner the effort would fail.

Well, no kidding.

At this point it’s obvious — if conservatives want to get rid of Boehner they’re going to have to find a front man. They’re going to have to agree on someone who is a plausible conservative candidate for Speaker, and build a power base around that person. They’re going to have to actually organize some opposition to Boehner inside the party — within the House membership, and not via e-mail blast fundraisers or talk radio. If that’s possible through a formal outfit like the Republican Study Committee, great. If not, something more informal ought to be created for that purpose — and it needs to be done now, in preparation for a run at Boehner a year, or two years, from now. Not at the last minute.

And that’s where criticism of Mulvaney, and the other conservatives like him who voted for and against the Speaker, should come in.

Sure, you get credit for recognizing you don’t have the goods to beat Boehner and refusing to needlessly suffer the fate of Webster and Nugent in the absence of those goods. But if you think your obligation stops there, what are you worth to the rest of us?

Where is Mulvaney’s call for organizing a conservative power base? Where is his communiqué offering himself up as an option for future speakership, or pledging his support to some other conservative?

What’s being done to plan for Boehner’s succession — in 2017 or some other time — by a conservative?

All we have is a succession of half-baked and fully-doomed coup attempts making conservative voters, activists, and politicians look like fools.

This isn’t acceptable. The country and the party deserve better than John Boehner as Speaker; that much is certain. But the conservative movement deserves a whole lot better than gadflies and lone wolves who can’t even force a second ballot on a man 60 percent of Republican voters want to see replaced.

Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics. He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott's other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits - check it out here.
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