House Speaker John Boehner unleashes new GOP freshmen
House Speaker John Boehner is taking a sharp turn from former speaker Nancy Pelosi's command-and-control style. He's letting his new freshmen act more independently. The battle to cut spending while avoiding a government shutdown is the first test.
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“EPA must come to realize that our food is grown in the dirt and in the process of making it, we’re going to stir up a little dust,” he said.
Speaking against the amendment, 19-term Rep. Henry Waxman, former chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, cautioned that small particulates can get into the lungs and that the Koem amendment “stops EPA from setting a standard that might be tighter, if the science dictates.”
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But the new House majority was having none of it. The Koem amendment passed, 255 to 168, with 21 Democrats joining all but 4 Republicans in support.
In the end, they lopped off nearly $62 billion of spending for the fiscal year that began last October. The bill passed 235 to 189, with only three Republicans breaking ranks to vote with Democrats.
Freshmen wanted deeper cuts
The freshmen pushed for more. A conservative amendment to lop off another $22 billion fell short, as senior Republicans, including majority leader Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia, broke ranks with more conservative members and voted with Democrats to reject the measure. (The Speaker of the House rarely votes.)
In the old command-and-control style House, that rift could be viewed as a challenge to leadership. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) of California maintained famously tight discipline in Democratic ranks, allowing not a single a single amendment on health care reform.
Boehner says it’s just what he wants.
“This open debate is teaching a lot of members to be legislators,” he said, in remarks to journalists on Friday. “Half of the freshmen have never served in public office. Allowing them to participate in this will speed up their development as legislators.”
This is vintage Boehner, who helped lead the Republican revolution that took back the House in 1995, then fell out of leadership in the hard-driving, top-down Speakership of Newt Gingrich, the first Republican Speaker in more than 40 years.
Even then, Boehner’s mantra was: “What do we have to fear from letting the House work its will?” Now, he has a chance to test the thesis.
“If we’re able to continue with as open a process as we can have, it will drive major change in the institution,” he said on Friday. “With an open process that respects the work of committees, you’ll see more working across the aisles and more healthy debate…. All of our differences get thawed out on the floor of the House.”