Politics & Government

Leading ‘Clean CR’ House Republican Explains His Limitations: Party Loyalty

The quagmire in Washington, DC seems to be the result of party loyalty.

Enough Republican lawmakers have signaled publicly that they would support a Continuing Resolution (CR) without any policy riders attached (like Obamacare defunding), a legislative package that would ultimately end the government shut down. They've received a lot of attention, yet nothing has happened.

In fact, the government could be on its way to opening back up if the faction of Republican politicians in the House who say they would pass a so-called “clean CR” sign onto a legislative maneuver offered by Democrats called a discharge petition. As the Washington Post reported, 195 Democrats have signaled support for the petition — which, added with the House Republicans who have indicated that they would pass a clean CR, would be enough to move the proposal forward.

We talked to several members of the GOP “Clean Caucus” but found answers to be elusive. Representative Frank Wolf, asked about his prior position on supporting a clean Continuing Resolution, growled, “when I say something, it's what I mean.” As we asked if he would sign the discharge petition that would force a vote on a clean CR, the Virginia Republican turned and walk walked away.

Representative Peter King, Republican of Long Island, is perhaps the most visible opponent of the shut down. He has railed regularly in the media against followers of Senator Ted Cruz, calling the man leading it a “con man” and the entire strategy “doomed to failure.”

As Slate's Dave Weigel pointed out, King floated the idea that as many as 25 moderate Republican lawmakers would join him in a vote against a rule that allowed the Obamacare-defunding CR, the budget bill that sparked the shut down. But when the vote came up, King only delivered a single moderate vote, other than himself.

Although King knocked the idea of signing the clean CR discharge petition on Fox News Sunday, telling host Chris Wallace that “it's not going anywhere,” we spoke to the congressman to further explain his unwillingness to embrace the plan.

“This wouldn't bring about the result,” said King about the discharge petition. “What it would be would be a gesture that would cut off my effectiveness in the Republican conference,” he said, before adding, “that's like a final step to take.” King called his prior vote against the rule “extreme enough,” claiming that his signature on the discharge petition would weaken his stature within the Republican conference.

While King brushed aside criticism, every other lawmaker of the Clean Caucus we spoke to refused to comment on the discharge petition.

King stressed that he knows how to “get things done” and said he was working on a plan to end the crisis.

“I'm only one guy, I only have so much power,” said Representative King, one more time explaining why the discharge petition would be too dangerous for him politically. “I'd lose a lot of credibility.”

In a certain twist of irony, the discharge petition supported by Democrats forces a vote on a bill originally sponsored by Congressman James Lankford, a Tea Party-backed lawmaker who fully supports taking both the debt ceiling and government funding bills hostage in exchange for a slew of drastic policy demands. If the petition gains enough signatures, Lankford's bill, which maintains government funding but includes automatic government spending cuts, would be swapped out for a clean CR.

We caught up with Lankford at the Weyrich Lunch on Wednesday — a meeting ground, as reported by TheNation.com this week, where many of the conservative advocacy groups behind the shut down effort conduct strategy sessions. Lankford, who mentioned he visits the group “about every couple of months or so,” said he would not be signing the discharge petition. “I would love to see some Democrats co-sponsoring my bill,” he said with a grin.

This post first appeared at The Nation and is reposted here with permission.

Lee Fang is a reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, now known as Type Investigations, now known as Type Investigations.

About the reporter

Lee Fang

Lee Fang

Lee Fang is a journalist with The Intercept with a longstanding interest in how public policy is influenced by organized interest groups.

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