Exerpt from interview with Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), who left the U.S. House this week, by MOLLY BALL, The Atlantic
Former Rep. Steve LaTourette: The Sandy thing could have been handled better. But Boehner had expended so much political capital on the tax bill, and now these same 20 to 60 people were grousing that [the aid money] was unpaid for. You look at the roll call on the tax bill -- Boehner votes yes, and every other [member of the GOP leadership] except Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted no.
During the roll call on the tax bill, I walked into the cloakroom, and Boehner was sitting there. I said, 'This Sandy thing is really important. We've got to do something.' He said, 'Not tonight.' I asked if we were going to do it tomorrow, and he said no. He said, 'After this mess, I just can't do it tonight.'
Q: I don't understand. Was he just exhausted? Was he afraid the votes wouldn't be there?
LaTourette: He had expended a lot of political capital to get the 85 votes [on the fiscal-cliff deal], and he felt a little betrayed that the other members of the elected leadership walked on him. And the last piece was, as you saw during the Speaker election [Thursday], this sort of insurrection was forming against him. There was a fear that if he put $60 billion, no matter how worthy, of unpaid-for emergency spending on the floor, the insurrection would become bigger than it was.
Q: How about that insurrection -- doesn't that prove that Boehner is a weak leader who can't control his caucus?
LaTourette: I think it's ridiculous. They should kick them all out of the Republican conference. The picture in Politico of a sitting Republican member of Congress on the floor with an iPad showing a screen with a whip count to deny the Republicans the speakership of the House is asinine. This is what I'm talking about: These guys are OK when it comes to ideology and dogma, but they don't have a clue how to participate in the legislative process.
I don't know what their objective is. If it was to deny the speakership to Boehner and hand it to Mrs. Pelosi, I don't know how their cause would have been furthered. If it's to force the vote to a second ballot to make some demands, well, who the hell do these people think they are? Twelve out of 233, and they're making demands? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
Q: Is there any way for Boehner to assert some leadership now that he's been reelected and bring the insurgents into line?
LaTourette: He resisted, the entire last Congress, until the very end, the temptation to punish anybody. I sat on the steering committee, and there were cries from all parts of the conference: 'These guys are ruining everything!' He wouldn't chastise them or do anything until the recent mini-purge.
I don't think his inclination is to punish people. But I have to tell you, I don't know how he does it. You look at the very beginning of the last Congress, H.R. 1, the omnibus, there were hundreds of amendments from the stupid to the sublime. One was offered to defund the president's teleprompter. Another was to defund the electrical upgrades needed to bring the White House up to code. But Boehner's deal was, OK, go for it, let people participate. There was an expectation that, given the opportunity to improve the bill, they would then vote for the bill. But beginning with that bill there have been 20 to 50 members who will make adjustments to the bill that guarantee you're not going to get one Democrat to vote for it, and then they still vote against the bill themselves and deny Boehner the 218 votes he needs to bargain with.
Q: Are the insurgents motivated by ideology?
LaTourette: I'm sure they have a certain ideology, but if the purpose of the place is to govern -- if your ideology is you don't believe in governing, I can't say anything to that. But if you want a smaller, more responsible government, you have to go for the achievable. Or you can say 'no' all you want, but then you can't squawk if leadership has to go across the hall to get Democrats to vote for it. [MORE]