Mulvaney: House insurgents can’t be trusted

At first, I thought SC’s Mick Mulvaney had had an awakening, and was spurning the Tea Party fervor that put him in office. I thought maybe his views had matured as a result of four years’ exposure to political reality. I was misled by this headline in the WashPost this morning: “House Republican slams anti-Boehner movement hard. Like, really hard.

That sounded as though maybe he was criticizing the thinking, or the goals, of the ineffectual insurgents. But no. He apparently still shares the goals. But he doesn’t trust the insurgents because they’re ineffectual.

Here’s his statement:

“There was an attempt to oust John Boehner as Speaker of the House today.  I didn’t participate in it.  That may make some people back home angry.  I understand that, but I’ve got some experience with coup attempts against the Speaker, and what I learned two years ago factored heavily in my decision today not to join the mutiny.

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.  Fool me once, shame on you… 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.

I also learned that the Floor of the House is the wrong place to have this battle.  The hard truth is that we had an election for Speaker in November – just among Republicans.  THAT was the time to fight.  But not a single person ran against Boehner.  Not one.  If they had, we could’ve had a secret ballot to find out what the true level of opposition to John Boehner was.  In fact, we could’ve done that as late as Monday night, on a vote of “no confidence” in the Speaker.  But that didn’t happen…and at least one of the supposed challengers to Boehner today didn’t even go to the meeting last night.  That told me a lot.

Some people wrote me encouraging me to vote for Louie Gohmert.  I like Louie, but let’s be clear: Louie Gohmert was – is – never ever going to be Speaker of the House.  I respect his passion, but he isn’t a credible candidate.  That was proved today by the fact that he got three votes, despite all the national media attention he managed to grab.  My colleague who got the most anti-Boehner votes was Daniel Webster of Florida who got 12 votes. I like Daniel.  He is a nice guy, and a good thinker…but his lifetime Heritage Action score is 60% (by comparison, mine is 91%).  And this was supposed to be the savior of the conservative movement?  Would the House really have been more conservative if he had won?

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

Some people tried to argue that voting against Boehner would give conservatives leverage, or somehow force him to lead in a more conservative fashion, even if the coup attempt failed.  All I can say to that is that the exact opposite happened two years ago:  conservatives were marginalized, and Boehner was even freer to work with moderates and Democrats.  My guess is that the exact same thing will happen again now.  And I fail to see how that helps anything that conservatives know needs to be done in Washington.

I understand people’s frustration and anger over what is happening in Washington.  And I also acknowledge that John Boehner may be partly to blame. But this was a fool’s errand.  I am all for fighting, but I am more interested in fighting and winning than I am fighting an unwinnable battle. 

Finally, the most troubling accusation I have heard regarding the Boehner vote is that I have “sold out” my conservative principles.  All I can say is this: take a look at my voting record.  It is one of the most conservative in Congress.  And I was joined today by the likes of Jim Jordan, Raul Labrador, Trey Gowdy, Mark Sanford, Trent Franks, Tom McClintock, Matt Salmon, Tom Price, Sam Johnson, and Jeb Hensarling.  If I “sold out” then I did so joined by some of the most tried and tested conservative voices in Washington.

I can say with 100% confidence that I have done exactly what I said I would do when I came to Washington: fight to cut spending, stop bad legislation, work to repeal Obamacare, and hold the President accountable for his actions.  That will never change, and neither will I.”

The Post may be right that this statement “is remarkably blunt and the kind of thing that is rarely seen from a member of Congress.” But it in no way reflects a change of heart. Unfortunately, this is still a guy who thinks mainstream Republicans aren’t radical enough.

12 thoughts on “Mulvaney: House insurgents can’t be trusted

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I find myself wondering what Mulvaney accomplished by voting for Boehner, in light of this statement.

    I mean, I can see a guy deciding that discretion is the better part of valor and deciding NOT to make an enemy of the speaker by voting against him, since the effort is doomed and you can’t trust the revolutionaries. It would be a way of having SOME chance of seeing one’s initiatives get some leadership support in the future.

    But isn’t that effect completely negated by this statement? I mean, if you’re going to imply to the world that you would have voted against the speaker if you’d thought the vote would count, then what have you accomplished by voting for him?

    Maybe Mulvaney’s mind is a couple of degrees more Machiavellian than mine, but I’m not seeing any craftiness here. This way, you tick off the insurgents AND the leadership, and set yourself back still further…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Stupid me.

      I forgot that to Tea Partiers, the only thing that’s important is that you still look like a radical to the radicals in your own district, so they don’t put up someone against you in the next primary.

      I forgot that they don’t care what ANYONE in actual Congress thinks about them, because they’re not there to accomplish anything anyway. They’re just there to keep getting elected.

      I forgot who I was dealing with.

      This was about explaining his vote to critics back home, and that’s it.

  2. M.Prince

    Yet another voice from the fire-eater caucus. I see that govtrack puts him waaay over to the right on its ideology scale:

    up in my part of the state, fellow fire-eaters were having a self-love fest: A rep from VA. voted to make his tea part comrade, Jeff Duncan, speaker, Duncan voted for neighbor Gowdy and Gowdy just didn’t bother to vote atall. Maybe he’d have liked to have voted for himself, but was just too bashful. Then again, that towering intellectual from Texas, Rep. Gohmert, did cast a vote for himself.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Reminds me of “Election,” a movie I just got around to watching for the first time this week.

      Tracy Flick won only because she voted for herself, while her opponent, who sensed it was wrong to vote for himself, voted for her, too.

      1. M.Prince

        If you enjoy movies about politics and politicking, two of the best are The Best Man (1964) and Advise and Consent (1962), the latter with Charles Laughton in a wonderful performance as the senior senator from South Carolina, Seabright Cooley.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’ve always wanted to see Advise and Consent.

          I think my favorite film about elections is “The Candidate,” starring Robert Redford and Peter Boyle…

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            We just finished Boss, about a Chicago mayor, actually shot in Chicago. Bleak, but echoes a lot that happened after it was filmed a few years back.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      Interesting site. I looked at the Senate and noticed something that surprised me: they have Ted Cruz to the left of a whole bunch of Senators. If we’re ranking (and who doesn’t love a good ranking list?) I’d probably have to put Cruz in the top 5 farthest right.

      I’d like to see a chart like that done for the comentariat here.

      1. bud

        Right/Left is way too restrictive. It’s more like four boxes. It boils down to spending and intervention priorities. Brad would occupy the box that wants more government in all areas (foreign affairs, birth decisions, health care). That would be the communitarian box.

        Doug is the Objectivist who favors hands off survival of the fittest.

        Then there’s the Fox News crowd who support intervention abroad in a sort of neo imperialism, anti immigration way. But the Foxers have no use for a social safety net.
        Then there are the “buds”. We abhor foreign entanglements but favor high taxes on the rich (seeing there wealth as either by luck or theft) to fund a variety of domestic/social causes. We also would legalize victimless crimes.

        1. Doug Ross

          “Doug is the Objectivist who favors hands off survival of the fittest.”

          Sorry, no. I am a pacifist who favors individuals being responsible, ethical, and charitable and not abdicating that responsibility to the tax code. I value efficiency and action over government mediocrity and bureaucracy. I value personal freedom over telling other people what they should do. I don’t live my life jealous of those who have more than me nor blame “bad luck” for any events that may have placed obstacles in my way. I don’t demonize the smart, hard working people who create the jobs that others cannot. I help people personally and directly, not using the government as a surrogate.

          Since you tried to put me in a box using a single sentence, let me do the same for you:

          “bud is the socialist who is jealous of success and thinks luck is more important than hard work”


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