‘People are stunned’: Resolution to oust Boehner scrambles party’s August recess plans

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Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., sure knows how to party.

Meadows marked his 56th birthday Tuesday, by scheduling to move with his wife Debbie from one apartment to another in Washington, D.C. And somewhere in between packing dishes into corrugated boxes, Meadows filed an unprecedented resolution to oust House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

In a single stroke, the rebellious congressman has not only infuriated the GOP leadership but scrambled their plans of using the August recess to focus on the Iran deal and a web of other issues. Now, the House goes into recess with this debate churning, even if the push stands little chance of succeeding.

"We will be getting bogged down on who is speaker over the August recess," seethed Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y. "We could end up like a European parliament. We should be talking about Iran. It's terrible."

Incidentally, the resolution also had to do with moving furniture. It seeks to compel Boehner to give up the speaker's suite, with a parliamentary motion known as "vacating the chair."

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    "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," Meadows wrote in his resolution to bump Boehner from his leadership perch.

    Betcha' Boehner didn't phone Meadows to wish him a happy birthday or send over a bottle of Duckhorn Merlot.

    That said, a rambunctious group of Republican insurgents, contemptuous of the House GOP leadership, may be more than happy to fete the birthday boy. Twenty-five House Republicans voted for someone other than Boehner for speaker at the start of this Congress in January. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, voted "present."

    "There's been a lot of discussion about leadership or the lack of leadership," said Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who waged a Quixotic effort of his own to claim the speaker's gavel over the winter. Yoho marshaled precisely two votes for speaker. His own and the ballot of Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.

    "I'll probably support [the resolution]," said Yoho.

    "This will be pervading our thoughts through the recess," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who backed Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., instead of Boehner. "It gives constituents the chance to lobby their members of Congress."

    What King refers to is the fabled August congressional recess. The annual, midsummer leviathan, deft at spawning utter political mayhem. Part Alien. Part Sith Lord. Part Voldemort. Lawmakers fear this temporal beast, never quite knowing how it could exact its wrath.

    Boehner loyalists could barely contain their anger as they stormed off the House floor Tuesday night, having just learned of Meadows' gambit.

    "It's something that will disrupt our plans to talk about policy for the August recess," fumed Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La. "It's really damaging. We were trying to leave on a high note. It's divisive."

    "People are stunned. People are angry that somebody would pull this stunt," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and a top Boehner lieutenant. "I thought we had gotten past all of this. It seems odd and bizarre."

    Republicans had plotted an August agenda to hammer Democrats on the Iran nuclear deal, funding Planned Parenthood, sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants, targeting by the IRS, Hillary Clinton's emails and ObamaCare.

    And now ...

    "The August recess is going to be about a lot of things," Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said.

    Meadows says he doesn't intend to call up his resolution on Wednesday, the last day the House is scheduled to meet before the August respite. In fact, it's possible Meadows may never compel the House to consider his plan.

    "This is not as much about the 'who' as the 'what,'" said Meadows. "It's really more about trying to have a conversation about making this place work."

    A bloc of 30 to 60 House Republicans consistently exercise their muscle against Boehner. It's unclear how many of these members could support Meadows' strategy. The August recess is the great political incubator. They'll test the temperature in a month.

    This episode surfaces at a period already fraught with intense, internal Republican strife, revealing GOP fissures. Just a few days ago, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took the extraordinary step of accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of lying to him about the Export-Import Bank.

    "I don't like being in the limelight. It is fearful when you have to do this. You have to work up courage to do this," said Meadows.

    House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Meadows conducted an intense conversation for about 40 minutes toward the rear of the chamber Tuesday following the House's final vote sequence. Meadows said he could earn pariah status in the House.

    "There will be potential for retribution," Meadows said.

    Some conservatives may attempt to stoke a debate about Boehner over the next month. Meadows will undoubtedly score points among Tea Party loyalists and scorn from the Republican establishment.

    Admire the effort or not, quite a birthday for Mark Meadows.

    It'll be hard to top this next year.