…and it wasn’t Lamar White’s smear of the House Majority Whip as a racist panderer from 13 years ago which caused it.
Rather, Scalise seems to be a victim, whether willing or not, of House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to capitulate on the “clean” funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Boehner passed a bill sent over from the Senate earlier this week that abandoned the fight to defund the president’s executive-action giving amnesty to millions of illegal aliens with just 75 Republican votes on Tuesday, and the base voters of the Republican Party are absolutely furious about the fact that he did so.
Since that passage there has been a great deal of talk that Boehner’s future as Speaker is in grave jeopardy. Kevin Boyd here at the Hayride has opined here and here that Boehner isn’t likely to make it to the next Congress as Speaker of the House, and elsewhere on the internet there is a roiling discussion over the potential for a vote of no-confidence in Boehner, a discussion which was only aided by a Boehner-affiliated group which spent some $400,000 in local ads attacking key Republican House members opposed to a clean DHS bill.
Scalise is tied to Boehner. He’s Boehner’s whip. And as the whip, Scalise had to vote for the clean DHS funding bill.
This is a problem for Scalise, because on Saturday of last week he was heard to tell a group of Republican activists back home in his district that the House had already passed a bill for DHS funding and wasn’t sending the Senate another one. Three days later not only did Boehner make a liar out of him but he was one of the 75 Republicans essentially crossing the aisle to vote for the clean DHS funding bill Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi asked for.
That’s not the kind of thing your constituents, particularly in a cast-iron conservative district like Scalise’s, want to see.
So yesterday, when Scalise posted a picture to his Facebook page and offered a message about fighting for flood insurance reform to protect his district and the Louisiana GOP shared it to a broad audience of Louisiana Republicans, we got a glimpse of just how intense the disappointment really is with the outcome of the DHS funding fight.
We’re offering a screenshot of all the comments so nobody can claim we just edited out a few to make our point. In fact, the point is stronger if you see the whole thing…
Maybe you can find an expression of support in that seething mass of disgust that we missed. All we saw was the proverbial red-ass.
Scalise is not the guy among the Republicans in the Louisiana delegation to catch rant after rant from constituents calling him a sellout and a RINO. Typically that’s been Charles Boustany, though Rodney Alexander was the most liberal Republican in the delegation while he was in office over the past several years. To the contrary, Scalise was the guy with the terrific conservative record and the string of popular YouTube videos of his impassioned articulations from the Right (his takedown of Al Gore in a 2007 House hearing is still one of the best things on the internet).
But when people who have always been fans are talking about being ashamed of their support for Scalise, something is badly off the track and he’s got a problem.
Will the DHS funding fight blow over? Probably. That’s not really Scalise’s problem, though. His problem is that the DHS fight isn’t the first perceived sellout of the base and its principles by the Republican House leadership, nor is it the first perceived sellout with Scalise as the Whip who’d supposedly move the caucus’ leadership to the Right.
And it isn’t the last, either.
Because on Wednesday, the day after the DHS funding capitulation, Boehner once again used unanimous Democrat support and a split GOP caucus – with most of the conservatives in dissent – to pass a bill. This time it was the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act, a funding authorization for Amtrak which actually cuts its subsidies by 40 percent and privatizes some rail routes. But the conservative wing of the party wanted to end Amtrak’s government subsidy, particularly after revelations Amtrak is spending $16 per every cheeseburger, for example, it sells on its trains. And now it looks like a pattern by which Boehner is fusing the GOP establishment to Pelosi and the Democrats in order to move legislation. Those gadflies regurgitating the old trope about how there’s really only one party in Washington actually look like they’ve got a point.
And Scalise’s colleagues in the Louisiana delegation – all the Republicans among whom voted against the clean DHS bill (even Boustany) – are beginning to carp about it.
“We were hoping to move everything to the right,”Rep. John Fleming, R-La., told the Washington Examiner after casting a “no” vote on a bill authorizing spending on Amtrak, which passed with overwhelming Democratic support and substantial Republican opposition. “Looks like to me they are moving it to the Left. They’ve given up on us so they are going to the Democrats to get votes.”
It doesn’t help Scalise that right in his district is Rob Maness, who ran for the Senate last year against Bill Cassidy on precisely the same platform from which conservatives are now screaming at Scalise. Maness spent months making the case that Cassidy’s voting record was no different than Mary Landrieu’s, and he didn’t stop talking about it until he came in third in the primary with 14 percent of the vote. Maness started a PAC with money from some of Louisiana’s political bigwigs (most notably Cassidy and Sen. David Vitter) as a remuneration for getting on board Cassidy’s runoff bandwagon, and now he’s trotting out his old talking points in what looks like the rhetorical foundation for a potential challenge to Scalise…
Here’s what Maness said in a statement emailed to reporters after Tuesday’s vote “As a citizen in House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s district, I am deeply troubled by his recent actions. The citizens of Louisiana’s First District expect our representative to stand up to President Obama’s amnesty agenda, and the Congressman’s refusal to do so is extremely disappointing.”
Would Maness be a real threat to Scalise in 2016? Probably not at this point. On the other hand, nobody thought Dave Brat would be able to knock off Eric Cantor last year until he did it. And with Scalise already bruised by the Lamar White smear making him look like a racist when even Cedric Richmond swears he isn’t, and having to take meetings with Marc Morial as penance for some offense there is no real evidence he actually committed, a Maness nipping at his heels is the last thing he needs.
Especially if his lot in life until next November is to be rummaging for votes among the moderate minority of the House GOP caucus to pass Democrat-favored bills for Boehner.
One might argue that Scalise’s best bet to salvage his reputation as a conservative would be to resign as Boehner’s whip, or at least begin making public breaks with him when bad legislation begins to hit the House floor. One might also argue that Scalise ought to break bread with John Fleming and the others in the House Freedom Caucus, and those conservatives he increasingly finds himself walled off from by his current leadership position, and explore the possibility of fronting a coup attempt. Everyone knows it’s coming; Boehner is a dead Speaker walking if he continues to go against the majority of his party to capitulate to the Democrats. The only thing which has kept it from happening so far is the lack of a credible alternative to Boehner.
Maybe that alternative is Scalise. He’s at least shown the ability to get a majority of the GOP caucus to vote for him, and further he’s shown the ability to build that majority from the right.
But the longer this goes on, and the more bad votes he’s forced to make, the tighter the box Scalise will be in. Boehner is dragging him down even with the constituents among whom he used to be wildly popular.