As the days go by, it becomes increasingly clear that there is no clear choice in the Speaker race. McCarthy is not great and his tenure would likely be plagued by a lot of the same incompetence that doomed the Boehner speakership. That having been said, no one who watched the Planned Parenthood hearings last week in the House should be convinced that Chaffetz is capable of doing better. And as Erick noted yesterday, Chaffetz willingly acted as hatchet man for Boehner in the most egregious abuse of power House leadership engaged in this year.
It beggars the imagination to suggest that Chaffetz would be a measurable improvement over McCarthy in terms of substance. It might be a good PR move on the part of the House GOP to show a clearer break with Boehner. But therein also lies a danger: by reshuffling the deck chairs on the titanic, the House GOP may feel content that they have done enough to appease conservatives, when in fact they have done nothing.
Without a credible alternative to McCarthy who presents a measurable substantive improvement, conservatives should focus on ensuring that [mc_name name=’Rep. Tom Price (R-GA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000591′ ] wins the race to succeed McCarthy as Majority Leader over [mc_name name=’Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001176′ ]. In addition to being part of the leadership team that has driven this legislative session into the ditch, Scalise has been personally responsible for many of Boehner’s biggest embarrassments through incompetent whip counts. Scalise, you will remember, botched the GOP’s attempts to pass a budget in March because he ignored conservatives’ concerns about offsetting defense spending with cuts elsewhere in the budget and dismissed [mc_name name=’Rep. Tom Price (R-GA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000591′ ]’s (well founded) claims that House fiscal conservatives were going to rebel against the bill. Scalise also botched the whip count on leadership’s sham immigration bill last year.
Scalise, in fact, has been the central face of Leadership’s failure to communicate with House conservatives or to take their concerns seriously:
So far this year, party whips have failed to find a middle ground in the conference to pass a controversial abortion bill, border security legislation, and a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind””and consequently, all three bills were pulled indefinitely from House consideration. House Republican Conference members have spent the first two months of 2015 fighting amongst themselves and with their counterparts in the Senate, rather than forming a unified Republican congressional front against President Obama.
But the frustration hit a head earlier this month, when the whip team came to the House floor believing they were within striking distance of passing a three-week extension of Homeland Security Department funding. Leaders thought the vote could give them time to hammer Senate Democrats and work out a longer-term solution. Instead, they were rebuffed by a staggering 52 members of their conference in an embarrassing defeat for GOP leadership.
“How do we not know a vote count that was so wide as that?” said one member who is close to leadership, speaking anonymously to discuss internal conference dynamics. “I want to see him succeed, but how many more of these can we withstand?”
The tension reached such a crescendo that by the time a final vote to extend DHS funding for the rest of the year came to the floor last Wednesday, one of Scalise’s five senior deputy whips, Rep. Dennis Ross, offered to resign his leadership post because he did not want to support the bill, National Journal has learned.
Scalise had warned earlier this year that members who do not support leaders on procedural motions should not be on the whip team, a policy that has already caused two members to part ways with the group. Ross felt that after promising constituents in his Florida district that he would never support a bill that did not block Obama’s executive action on immigration, he could not in good conscience vote against a procedural motion that would have killed the Senate-passed bill, according to sources familiar with the encounter. Scalise did not accept his resignation.
Scalise’s and Ross’s offices declined to comment.
Not only has Scalise been unable to bring the conservative members on board, he is actively being out-whipped by them, members said. The House Freedom Caucus, an upstart group of hardline Republicans, is becoming increasingly influential in the conference, and in the case of the DHS vote, their strident objections to any clean bill caused even members who might otherwise vote with leadership to turn their backs. In the final stretch on the House floor, the task of passing the three-week bill became so Sysiphean that Scalise did not even engage his senior deputy whips, according to two members with knowledge of the operation.
Elevating Scalise after his disastrous performance over the past 15 months would be a slap in the face of House conservatives and inevitably lead to more blown vote counts and embarrassments for the GOP.
[mc_name name=’Rep. Tom Price (R-GA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000591′ ] is not perfect, but he represents a large and measurable improvement over [mc_name name=’Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S001176′ ] as Majority Leader. House Conservatives who are wanting to meaningfully change the leadership team should focus on this race to ensure that they at least have a voice at the table.