Republicans have revolted against House Speaker John Boehner on numerous occasions, but since the last embarrassing but ineffective coup attempt in January, there hasn’t been much grumbling about stripping him of the speakership. That’s why Representative Mark Meadows’s “motion to vacate the chair” on Tuesday was so surprising. According to Politico, even some of the North Carolina Republican’s friends didn’t know about his plan to file the motion tonight, just one day before Congress heads out for a six-week recess. The effort is unlikely to be successful, but it could disrupt the Republicans’ agenda. “We were focused on the Iran issue,” one Boehner supporter told the Washington Post. “This takes the eye off the ball.”
The motion to vacate is an obscure maneuver that has never been successful and was only attempted once in 1910. While Meadows could have filed it as a privileged resolution, forcing a vote within two days, instead he offered it in a form that sent the motion to committee. The resolution alleges that Boehner has “endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent;” “through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy;” and used “the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker.” Yet Meadows said he merely wants it to be the “impetus” for a “family discussion” about making sure everyone in Congress is being “treated fairly.”
So why not just start a conversation with the leadership? Some speculated that he wants to generate publicity, and one fellow Republican congressman told Politico this is just a “cheap political stunt.” Plus, the congressman has clashed with Boehner in the past (though he told reporters this isn’t a personal vendetta). Meadows was one of 25 Republicans who voted against the speaker in the last coup attempt, and last month he was stripped of his position as chairman of an Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee after voting against the leadership on granting President Obama “fast track” authority on trade deals. (He got the position back after conservatives complained.)
Meadows’s resolution is unlikely to make it out of the Rules Committee, which is filled with Boehner loyalists. Meadows spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told The Hill that the congressman will likely pursue a discharge petition, which would bring the bill to the floor if he can collect 218 members’ signatures. If the matter actually comes to a vote, Meadows will almost certainly lose. The faction of Republicans who oppose Boehner would need the support of every single Democrat, and Democratic leaders have suggested they aren’t interested in ousting the speaker.
In a radio interview on Thursday night, Meadows said he thinks the House Republican leadership may hold a vote just to squash the speculation. “They will call most of the members tonight and try to bring this up and have a vote on it tomorrow [Wednesday],” Meadows told host Mark Levin. He added he’s ready to accept the consequences for his (probably pointless) rebellion. “These will be very difficult days. It will not come without retribution and that’s to be understood,” he said.