The morning after Reps. Daniel Webster and Rich Nugent were kicked off the Rules Committee , freshly re-elected Speaker John A. Boehner left the door open to possibly reinstating the two Florida Republicans.
Webster launched a surprise challenge to Boehner in Tuesday's leadership election, garnering 12 votes — including his own and one from Nugent. Twenty-three other Republicans also defected , voting present or for Webster or other candidates, including Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Ted Yoho of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Those 25 members and their colleagues are now watching closely to see whether Boehner and his allies in leadership will use the few tools they have to diminish the clout of those who dared embarrass the House's No. 1 Republican on the floor of the chamber.
Boehner's first step immediately after the speaker vote was declining to reappoint Webster and Nugent to the Rules Committee when the House approved a resolution Tuesday evening naming the panel's members for the 114th Congress.
At a news conference Wednesday following an hour-and-a-half-long closed-door members' meeting, Boehner acknowledged the two lawmakers were left off the roster because of some "activities on the floor." He said he hadn't talked to either of them, however, and "final decisions" on the matter had not been made — they could apparently be reinstated.
Opposition from Webster and Nugent, who sat next to each other on the Rules Committee, might have been the final straw for Boehner. Rules Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas, suggested Tuesday night that "it became apparent to a number of people that there seemed to be a problem" with Nugent's and Webster's willingness to play with the team. And on the Rules Committee, which is often referred to as "the speaker's committee," teamwork is a priority.
California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, a staunch Boehner ally and the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested getting a spot on the committee is the speaker's prerogative.
"It's the speaker's committee," Nunes said. "It's his committee that he won outright, so you can't have people on there that are then gonna vote against rules, and they did it without telling the speaker and, quite frankly, without telling the rest of the conference, which they had a responsibility to do. ... A lot of people around here have learned that if you don't have 218 votes, you give control to [Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi."
Webster told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday that to the best of his knowledge, he had never voted against a rule in the 113th Congress.
Nunes argued that whatever the reason, their votes against the speaker were enough to get them removed from the Rules panel. He said he hoped Boehner would take action against other dissidents, but conceded that the speaker may not opt for that hardline disciplinary approach.
"John Boehner is a nice guy. He's a hell of a lot nicer than I'd be," Nunes said. "As far as I know, the speaker is not taking any retribution, which I think is a big mistake."
Members said that most of the Wednesday conference meeting was dedicated to what Boehner called a "family discussion," and they emerged from the gathering unclear as to what would come next, though Boehner also said discussions would continue regarding committee assignments in light of Tuesday's events. He refused to rule out additional punishment.
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., who is going into the 114th Congress as the vice chairman of the Budget Committee and voted for Webster for speaker, said he was not aware there were plans to diminish his influence in the GOP conference. He also said he informed GOP leadership that he would not be voting for Boehner, which could help curry him some favor with leaders who are incensed that many members caught the speaker off guard.
Clark Mindock contributed to this report.
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