Conservative Republican frustration over the failure of the Bush administration and the House Republican leadership to restrain federal spending has boiled over in recent days, producing a rare confrontation between GOP lawmakers and party leaders.If this anecdote is true, how could President Bush possibly say that with a straight face? The only time he’s evidenced any willingness to say “Me too” is when it increases the size and scope of government. One measly tax cut an advocate of limited government does not make.
The internal conflict, fueled largely by recent passage of the $78 billion Iraq reconstruction effort and the $400 billion prescription-drug benefit for senior citizens that squeaked through the House on Nov. 22, came to a head last week when President Bush abruptly terminated a phone conversation with a Florida Republican who refused his plea to vote for the landmark bill.
Well-placed sources said Bush hung up on freshman Rep. Tom Feeney after Feeney said he couldn’t support the Medicare bill. The House passed it by only two votes after Hastert kept the roll-call vote open for an unprecedented stretch of nearly three hours in the middle of the night.
Feeney, a former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives whom many see as a rising star in the party, reportedly told Bush: “I came here to cut entitlements, not grow them.”
Sources said Bush shot back, “Me too, pal,” and hung up the phone.
It gets even thicker:
At the same time, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) castigated former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) after he wrote an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal opposing the bill. Armey wrote that he opposed the bill even though he had voted for two similar bills as a member of Congress.Tough. Hastert’s three hour vote revealed him to be willing to attempt almost any stunt to have passed this bill. Heck, the impeachment vote against Bill Clinton did not take as long. The GOP does not just deserve to be called out—it deserves to lose political power. The party no longer serves the interests of those who seek limited government. Consider the last bit of the article:
House leadership aides said Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) felt blindsided by Armey’s op-ed, which came at a time when they were trying desperately to round up the necessary votes.
“The Speaker is very disappointed about the article, especially because Mr. Armey voted for prescription-drugs bills that had even less reform than the conference report did when he was a member,” Hastert spokesman John Feehery told The Hill on Monday.
Republican aides said conservatives who voted against the bill, including Reps. Mike Pence (Ind.), John Culberson (Texas), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.) and Jim Ryun (Kan.), would suffer for their votes against the Medicare bill.With a closely controlled Congress, even a group as small as 10 members could have a powerful impact on floor votes. If sentenced to the back bench, these congressmen should mount an all out attack against the GOP’s spendthrift (and rights violating) ways.
Leadership aides said those members “can expect to remain on the back bench” in the months ahead.