John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


It’s Really Not That Complicated

Posted on January 7, 2015
Obama Health Care Speech to Joint Session of Congress.jpg

"Obama Health Care Speech to Joint Session of Congress" by Lawrence Jackson - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s really not that complicated.

I don’t mean to sound like Peter Morini, but when it comes to the vote for Speaker of the House, it really isn’t that complicated.

You are either shirts or skins.  Red or blue.  Republican or Democrat.

It’s a binary choice.

Both parties decide who their candidates for Speaker will be.  You have a chance to influence that decision by running a campaign during that earlier process.

John Boehner had no opponent during that selection process in the House Republican Conference, which is a secret ballot.

If somebody wanted to vote for somebody else, that’s the time to do it, precisely because it is a secret ballot.

You can really escape any retribution because you have plausible deniability.   It wasn’t me.

And when it comes to secret ballot for leadership position, people lie.  All the time.

But when it comes time to vote for Speaker on the House floor, you can’t run and you can’t hide.

You stand up on television and before a packed gallery, teeming with little kids, and announce to the world who you are going to vote for.

And once you make that decision, you can’t take it back.

It really is astounding that 25 people vote for John Boehner when it was a secret ballot and then voted against him when it wasn’t.

It is legislative malpractice of the highest order.

There has been talk of retribution for those who crossed Boehner.

I don’t think of it as retribution.  I think of it as more as taking away positions of responsibility from Members of Congress who can’t handle the easiest of tasks during the legislative process.

If you can’t decide what team you are on, how can the Speaker trust you to make the hard decisions?

I know the vote seemed to be complicated.  I know that talk radio hosts and Matt Kibbe begged these Members to vote against Boehner.    I know that some folks who spend a lot of time listening to talk radio had enough time on their hands to make phone calls into the Capitol.

It’s a big country and apparently there are a lot of people with time on their hands.

But a Member of Congress who is going to be persuaded by Mark Levin and Sean Hannity about this most fundamental of legislative decisions doesn’t really deserve to have any kind of legislative responsibility.

As a Member of Congress, you have to understand both the outside game and the inside game.

Yes, it is important to listen to your constituents and do what you can do to address their concerns.

But as an elected representative, you must also understand the power dynamics that help you to make the most of your one vote in a House of 435.

And when you cast the wrong vote on that most basic of questions -- the question of what team you are on -- you squander any real hope you have of being an effective legislator.

It’s really not that complicated.