Speaker John A. Boehner has repeatedly said he doesn't believe in retribution against the GOP lawmakers who didn't vote for him to be speaker. But he increasingly seems to believe he doesn't exactly have to reward those members either.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, a member who has made no secret of his opposition to many of Boehner's plans, has found himself kicked off two upcoming congressional trips during the House's two week recess.
Willingham added that Gohmert was also scheduled to travel to Africa with Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., and others on a military plane. "But the speaker's office disapproved the trip," Willingham said.
During his customary floor remarks Thursday after the House finished its legislative business for the week, Gohmert spoke about the unrest in the Middle East and Obama administration policies that he felt were a slap in the face for Israel and the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Gohmert suggested it was important to talk to foreign leaders involved in the Middle East, but he said he could no longer do that "because the speaker won't allow me to go overseas to talk to them."
"I'm fine with that," Gohmert said. "Because he canceled my trip this weekend, I'm going to be on Fox News, so thank you, Mr. Speaker."
Boehner's office declined comment about this story, but a GOP aide suggested that withholding Gohmert's travel shouldn't come as a surprise.
"Republicans can't count on him," the aide said of Gohmert. "As a former JV football player, he should know that you don't get the ball if you're not working hard for the team."
The move isn't unprecedented. Just a few weeks ago, Iowa Republican Steve King reported that Boehner cancelled his diplomatic trip as payback for King's opposition to a "clean" Department of Homeland Security funding bill.
These foreign trips, often referred to as a "CODEL" — a portmanteau for "Congressional Delegation" — are taxpayer-funded voyages authorized by the speaker. Under House rules — and, actually, U.S. law — a committee chairman could also authorize foreign travel. It appears no one was willing to do that for Gohmert, at least not without Boehner's blessing.
Boehner has previously maintained that retribution doesn't work against members who frequently oppose Republican plans. But that doesn't seem to have stopped him from making a few examples of members. In the 114th Congress alone, Boehner swiftly kicked Florida Republicans Daniel Webster and Rich Nugent off the Rules Committee , and, even before the speaker vote had taken place in Congress, Randy Weber, R-Texas, said he had been removed as a sponsor of a bill in retaliation for supporting Gohmert for speaker.
Conservative members have also expressed frustration over recent ads against certain members by a moderate Republican group, American Action Network. That group is led, in part, by a former chief of staff to Boehner, Barry Jackson.
While not approving foreign travel for one gadfly member may not seem like such an outrageous attack on conservatives, the pattern of punishment could become a flashpoint for right-wing members who have thus far downplayed the prospects of a revolt against Boehner.
But, as Arizona Republican Matt Salmon told CQ Roll Call in response to the news about TV ads against some of his fellow conservative members, “There’s an old adage: When you play with fire, you get burned.”
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.
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