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GOP Infighting Strikes Again

Leadership is punishing dissent among the ranks.

Most of our readers know about the continuing fight between Republican leadership and Republican conservatives. The latest scuffle over the potential Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and Trade Promotion Authority, the separate legislation giving Barack Obama more authority in the matter, has turned into a bloody intra-party battle in the GOP leaving scars that may not heal, and promising more conflict in the future.

After the June 11 vote on a procedural matter, three conservative Republicans — Trent Franks (AZ), Steve Pearce (NM) and Cynthia Lummis (WY), all members of the Freedom Caucus — were informed by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (LA) that their membership on the whip team had been terminated.

Next, Jason Chaffetz (UT), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Rep. Mark Meadows (NC) that he’d lost his chairmanship of the Government Operations subcommittee. It was clearly punitive because Meadows bucked leadership on Trade Promotional Authority.

But Chaffetz told Roll Call, “I made a tough decision that I believe is in the interest of the Committee. I think highly of Mr. Meadows but a change was needed based on multiple factors.” One of those factors, no doubt, was Meadows’ vote against John Boehner for speaker back in January.

Meadows, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, however, isn’t so glib. “For the last six months they have doled out small punishments in a variety of forms,” said Meadows. “I personally have received those. I have not gone public until now — because they went public first. The leadership team wants to create a culture of punishment and fear without a culture of debate and dialogue. But there is no honor in bowing to a bully. There is only honor in fighting a good fight — win or lose. This is not a fight I will back down from.”

He added, “No one should be punished for voting their conscience and representing their constituents. I didn’t run for Congress to be a ‘yes’ vote for House Republican leadership. I came here to represent the people of Western North Carolina. My voting card may have my picture on it, but it belongs to the people of Western North Carolina, and I will continue to listen to their voices regardless of the consequences.”

Trent Franks, one of the fired whips, said, “[T]here’s a polarization taking place” between conservatives and the leadership as the former are now being locked out of strategy sessions with Scalise.

Such bickering is part and parcel of being a member of Congress. But some members of the GOP leadership appear to be more concerned with their positions and power than with maintaining a unified front. Rather than work to assure conservatives that Trade Promotion Authority isn’t the apocalypse some warn it is, and that it doesn’t ensure a bad trade deal passes, the leadership merely railroads the measure through and punishes those who dissent. There’s a difference between leading and ruling. Boehner and company should learn it.

> Update: Maybe Republicans do learn. Mark Meadows has been reinstated.

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