Feb. 9, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Republicans Jump Ship

In response, Boehner asked Gingrey whether it was true that he wanted to serve on the Energy and Commerce panel. In an interview Wednesday, Gingrey said he replied that he absolutely wanted to be on the committee.

“Then vote no,” Boehner said, to chuckles from the audience.

Gingrey described the comment as tongue-in-cheek and said he wasn’t offended by the exchange. In fact, he said, at times he has wanted leaders to be more forceful in relaying “how strong our leadership feels about something.”

He said Boehner later approached him on the floor and told him to vote his conscience and do what he thought he needed to do, assuring him that it would have no impact on future committee assignments.

Not everyone in the room took Boehner’s comments in jest.

“Some of the Members might have been taken aback by it,” Gingrey conceded.

Other Members privately praised the hard line taken by leadership, even if the effort ultimately failed.

With more sensitive votes expected in July and September, Republican leaders’ ability to hold their rank and file in line will continue to be tested.

Simpson said that the vote could have implications later as Members start thinking about their own re-elections and pay less attention to presidential veto threats.

“The president is going to have less and less say here over the next six months, because frankly, he’s not on the ballot, and we are,” he said.

Leadership aides defended the decision to whip against the bill and acknowledged more difficult votes are to come.

The American Medical Association and pharmaceutical industry mounted an aggressive public relations campaign to build support for the legislation. Members received an outpouring of calls from doctors in their districts prior to the vote.

Republicans sought to put the best face on the defeat, charging that Democrats were seeking to undermine the bipartisan Senate negotiations by bringing the bill up under suspension.

“Our Members wanted to go home having voted for a measure that would ensure that physicians are fairly reimbursed by Medicare,” said Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Blunt. “Sadly, House Democrats would neither back down nor commit to finding a way to get a reasonable compromise bill to the president’s desk before we leave for recess.”

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.), a moderate who was defeated in a primary earlier this year, said he sees the vote as further evidence that Members are realizing they have to put their own interests above toeing the party line.

“The ship is sinking and somebody yelled ‘every man for himself,’” he said.

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