House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) unleashed on Republican trade defectors today, saying he expects his caucus to act like a unified caucus.
Thirty-four Republicans tried to keep the trade package from coming to the floor last Friday, with just enough pro-trade Democrats voting for the rule to pass 217-212.
After coming to the floor, Trade Promotion Authority passed 219-211, with 54 Republicans — including libertarian and conservative members — voting against the bill and 28 Democrats — ranging from liberals to Blue Dogs — voting in favor. Trade Adjustment Assistance crashed on a 126-302 vote with just 86 Republicans and 40 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saw killing TAA as their only way of stopping TPA.
But Boehner was burned by the defections on the rule vote, maintaining that the caucus can’t split on procedural votes, and made his displeasure known.
After a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers at the Capitol Hill Club today, Boehner told reporters he’s “not very happy” about the defections.
“And I made it pretty clear to the members today I was not very happy about it,” he said. “You know, we’re a team and we’ve worked hard to get in the majority, we’ve worked hard to stay in the majority, and I expect our team to act like a team. And I, frankly, made it pretty clear I wasn’t very happy.
Boehner called wrapping up the trade deal “a large priority of mine” and said he and President Obama spoke yesterday — “matter of fact, we had several conversations yesterday — trying to find a way to move ahead.”
“I want trade promotion authority finished as soon as we can get it finished. And we’re looking for a way forward, when we find one, we’ll let you know,” he said. “This is important for America. This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats, it’s about our country and it’s about the people that we serve from one coast to the other.”
But lawmakers didn’t just get a stern lecture.
National Journal first reported today that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) gave the heave-ho to three conservatives on the whip team — Reps. Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Steve Pearce (N.M.) and Trent Franks (Ariz.) — for not keeping members in line.
“In the beginning of the year,” Scalise spokesman Chris Bond said, “Whip Scalise reaffirmed the longstanding policy, also held by his predecessors, that while Whip team members are free to vote their conscience on underlying bills, they are expected to vote as a team on procedural matters such as last week’s rule vote.”
Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) noted at a Heritage Foundation event this morning that “voting against the rule is almost like committing a capital crime here.”
Labrador was one of those Republicans who voted against the rule.
“This is the second or third time that they negotiated with Democrats and then Democrats go back on their word,” Labrador said. “And they still don’t come to the conservatives.”