Updated 7:00 p.m. | Rep. Mark Meadows spent his 56th birthday Tuesday taking steps to dethrone Speaker John A. Boehner.
The North Carolina Republican, who had a subcommittee gavel taken away and then given back to him last month , might have hurt his own effort, however, by filing a non-privileged form of the motion to vacate the chair, which would remove Boehner as speaker. The non-privileged form of the motion is referred to a committee and does not need to receive an immediate vote. A GOP leadership aide told CQ Roll Call Tuesday evening the motion would be referred to the Rules Committee, where it's unlikely to be considered. "This is the first I'm hearing about it," Rules Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said Tuesday. "No one told me anything about this."
Sessions said he would review the language and consider next steps, though the Rules Committee is also known as the "Speaker's Committee" — as sure a sign as any the panel won't be marking it up unless it has to.
Sessions wasn't the only member left in the dark. Members on the House floor Tuesday night were also learning the news as it developed, whispering among one another and showing tweets and emails coming up on their smartphones. Indeed, even members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, of which Meadows is a founding member, were mostly left out of the loop.
It was not immediately clear what Meadows' end game was in filing a motion that required no action. Any member can offer a privileged form of the resolution and get a vote. But even in the current form of Meadows' resolution, the motion is a significant signal of conservative frustration with Boehner.
The 260-word resolution reads as a blistering indictment of the Ohio Republican from a member of his own party:
Whereas the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 114th Congress has endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent; Whereas the Speaker has, through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the Executive and Judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American People; Whereas the Speaker uses the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker; Whereas the Speaker has intentionally provided for voice votes on consequential and controversial legislation to be taken without notice and with few Members present; Whereas the Speaker uses the legislative calendar to create crises for the American People, in order to compel Members to vote for legislation; Whereas the Speaker does not comply with the spirit of the rules of the House of Representatives, which provide that Members shall have three days to review legislation before voting; Whereas the Speaker continues to direct the Rules Committee to limit meaningful amendments, to limit debate on the House floor, and to subvert a straightforward legislative process; and Whereas the House of Representatives, to function effectively in the service of all citizens of this country, requires the service of a Speaker who will endeavor to follow an orderly and inclusive process without imposing his or her will upon any Member thereof: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives is hereby declared to be vacant.As House Freedom Caucus members walked back to their offices from Tuesday evening votes, the conservative Republicans confirmed one by one that Meadows had never spoken to the group about his intention to bring forward such a resolution.
"First I'm hearing about it," HFC member Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee told CQ Roll Call.
Alabama Republican Mo Brooks, another HFC member who said Meadows never brought up the subject to the group, said he needed "some time to think about the pros and cons" of such a motion.
"The key is always what happens next," Brooks said of booting Boehner. "Do we elect someone who is more liberal, or someone who is more conservative as speaker of the House?"
Brooks said he would go with the most conservative option, and in January, when the House held its speaker election, "that was John Boehner."
Yet another HFC member, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, said he had just heard about Meadows offering the motion, "and I was like, whoooaaaa-kay."
"Quite honestly I'm curious, like, what's the point, what's the point here?" Perry continued. "I like Mark. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what the point of this is."
Meanwhile, a House Republican close to leadership speaking to reporters on background speculated the reason it was not offered as a privileged motion was "deliberate." The Republican speculated that it was a tactic to let it simmer over August recess, at which time the measure could amass more GOP support, culminating perhaps in a floor vote in September.
Either way, Republican leadership will probably ignore this particular motion, unless it gets 218 signatures in a discharge petition. But, as members noted to CQ Roll Call Tuesday night, any member can get a vote on a motion to vacate the chair. It's just a matter of whether there's support for such a tactic. And the August recess, when members return to their districts, is a good time to find out.