LaTourette’s close relationship to Boehner is well-known. “Those two guys respect the hell out of one another,” said a lobbyist close to both. Members and other insiders say the two share similar personalities, especially a penchant for straight talk and sense of calm under pressure.
“Any time there is a very tough vote or a strategic vote, the Speaker will call upon LaTourette in a way that a professional baseball team would call on its pitcher who’s a closer to win the game,” Kucinich said.
The relationship can pay off on LaTourette’s policy priorities, even when he’s at odds with the Speaker.
Boehner has tasked LaTourette, and Ohio GOP Reps. Patrick Tiberi and Steve Stivers, with finding new ways to finance a forthcoming infrastructure spending bill. “To the Speaker’s credit, even though he’s never voted for a highway bill since he’s been in the Congress, he has asked us to try and unlock that Gordian knot,” LaTourette said.
In Conference meetings, LaTourette is known for sharply defending the Speaker, sometimes provoking suspicions that he is “carrying Boehner’s water,” as one lawmaker put it.
“I don’t speak a lot. Because I do know — Tiberi and I have talked about this — there are some who think when we speak we’re doing so at Boehner’s urging. I can tell you I’ve never given a speech because Boehner asked me to, and I think the same is true with Tiberi. But sometimes when it looks like you have a shill in the audience, it turns people further away. So we don’t abuse it, but I do think we have to stand up once in a while,” LaTourette said.
There have been more of those occasions in the current Congress.
“The thing that’s different this time is that you have people disagreeing with the leadership position, which is, that’s their right, but then, sort of going out and attempting to sabotage the leadership initiatives with groups that are anxious to raise money to do that,” LaTourette said.
“We’ve had conferences where the Speaker and the leadership has laid out where they think we can go. Before the conference is over, I’ve actually seen people get up out of their chairs, run out of the room, and [I] have been told they’re on Fox News or tweeting something that is attacking the decision that the leadership has made,” LaTourette said.
He called those incidents “disturbing” but said his ire was not directed at Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee. “I love Jimmy Jordan,” he said. “He’s a true believer. I don’t have a problem with true believers.”
LaTourette backed a recent decision by the GOP Steering Committee not to punish Members who last month helped bring down a stopgap spending bill on the floor.
“The Speaker again has chosen the prudent course and said, ‘Look, we’re not gonna punish them, we’re not gonna make martyrs out of them, but maybe if there’s some major piece of legislation, maybe they’re not the person leading the floor fight on that major piece of legislation,’” LaTourette said.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.