Jones, center, initially voted to authorize the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he had a change of heart in 2005 and has been a critic ever since.
What do you do when your party casts you aside, strips you of committee assignments, discounts your legislative priorities and rolls its eyes at your meek fundraising numbers?
If you’re Rep. Walter B. Jones, you put your head down, you vote your conscience and you find an issue you’re passionate about.
The 10-term North Carolina lawmaker has, for years, been near the top of the list of Republicans most likely to break with the party and he has no qualms about bucking leadership — or about the steep price he’s paid as a result.
“I believe in the independence of the heart and the soul to do what’s right,” Jones told CQ Roll Call this week.
Most lawmakers will tell you they vote their conscience. But few have the record to back it up. Since coming to Congress in 1995, Jones has voted for 111 Democratic motions to recommit, more than twice as many as any other Republican.
“It’s not to make a statement or anything. It’s just that, morally, I think I ought to be voting that way,” Jones said. “My policy’s always been that if a [motion to] recommit has anything in it that will be helpful to our veterans, I usually vote for it.”
GOP leadership hasn’t hidden its qualms with Jones, who voted for former Comptroller David M. Walker for speaker in January instead of Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.
In 2012, the Republican Steering Committee removed Jones from his plum position on the Financial Services panel. He’s also been skipped over for a subcommittee gavel on the House Armed Services Committee for years, despite the fact that he’s the No. 3 Republican on the panel.
While he voted initially to authorize the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — something he says he’ll regret “to the day I die” — Jones had a change of heart in 2005 and has been an ardent critic ever since. In 2007, Jones was in line to be the ranking Republican of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness.
That’s when former Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, R-Calif. — “not the son, the senior, I love both of ’em” — told Jones that he couldn’t put him in that position because he knew Jones would vote with the Democrats to get out of Iraq.
“I said, ‘Duncan, you’re exactly right; I will,’” Jones recounted. “So that pretty much told me that by doing what you think is right, no matter what the issue might be, there’s a price to pay.”
Jones says he’s “at peace” with not being a chairman — a role his father, Rep. Walter Jones, a 26-year congressman himself, held for the Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.