Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador was the model of congeniality on the day House Speaker John Boehner announced he was stepping down, saying the Ohio Republican served “with distinction and grace.”
But Labrador’s tone changed dramatically a few days later, after Boehner called out conservatives for being “false prophets” and promoting an unrealistic agenda.
“That is precisely why he had a problem being speaker of the House,” Labrador said. “When you are the leader of the party, you need to learn to work with the factions. You can’t be pitting one faction against another. That has happened consistently here.”
Nicknames, such as the “Hell No Caucus,” which Boehner has pinned on Labrador’s Freedom Caucus, do not serve a constructive purpose.
“We’ve been told we can’t do something, because the Tuesday group (moderates) don’t want it. Then he’d go to the Tuesday group and say something can’t be done because those crazy guys on the other side don’t want it,” Labrador said. “That’s not leadership.”
Labrador calls Boehner “a 20th century speaker of the House, living under a 20th century environment. We have a president of the United States who is making his own laws, and using executive orders. We need a different kind of speaker.”
Boehner, in an interview on Face the Nation (CBS) said he took successful measures in pushing for a conservative agenda, but added it was not enough for the conservative wing. Labrador has a different take.
“Who made the promises? It was his arm of the election process – the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee),” Labrador said. “They told the American people that if you put the House and Senate in Republican hands, we could make major changes in Washington, D.C.”
Promises included repealing Obamacare, stopping the president from taking unconstitutional actions and balancing the budget.
“Those were not promises I made,” Labrador said. “Those were the promises the speaker’s own people made. He needs to look in the mirror if he calls someone a false prophet.”
Republicans are paying a price for broken promises. Labrador says he has seen polling that shows 60 percent of Republicans feel betrayed by Congress. That may sum up why political outsiders, such as Donald Trump, are doing well in presidential polling, while candidates such as Sen. Rand Paul (who Labrador supports) are hardly on the radar.
“Think about the meaning of the word betrayed,” Labrador said. “That’s on the heads of John Boehner and (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell.”
Labrador is weary of McConnell’s excuses about not having 60 votes to pass bills. As Labrador sees it, the Senate side is not much better. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell often complains about not having the 60 votes to pass initiatives. “Maybe he needs to figure out how to get those 60 votes,” Labrador said. “Here’s a news flash: He won’t have 60 votes next year even if we have a Republican president.”
The political betting line suggests that California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican floor leader, is the favorite to take over as speaker. But Labrador says that’s hardly a sure thing. McCarthy, or others seeking the position, will have to make their case to the conservative caucus.
What Labrador wants as a speaker goes beyond someone with a conservative agenda. Fear and intimidation were part of Boehner’s operating mode, and Labrador welcomes a change.
“In the House here, most members – conservative or moderates – feel they are not appreciated and they are not allowed to be legislators,” Labrador said. “They feel they have to do what the leadership tells them for fear of losing committee assignments, NRCC funding or support from people to help them win re-election.
“I’m one of the few who is willing to tell the party leaders, ‘no, I’m not going to let you do it that way.’ If you are afraid of how you vote, because the speaker might punish you … that’s why the system here is broken.”
When Boehner resigns from Congress at the end of this month, Labrador may be around to bid farewell. But he’ll probably be thinking “good riddance.”