Tags: LaTourette | Boehner | Congress | Republican

Moderate Republican Outlook for Congress

By    |   Monday, 12 January 2015 08:00 AM

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, now CEO of the Republican-Main Street Partnership, which is composed of 66 "Rockefeller Republicans," the largest number ever, appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal Jan. 11 to talk about the way moderate Republicans see the issues likely to be considered during the 114th Congress that was sworn in last week.

The dominant feature of this Congress is that it gives Republicans two years of control over both houses. Moderates have managed to hold on to the House speakership, with LaTourette's fellow Ohioan, John Boehner, R-Ohio, looking a bit scorched in the picture of the House Leadership that accompanied this segment.

The fact that a small group of conservatives dissented from Boehner's re-election presages the recurrence of a syndrome that has afflicted the party for decades. LaTourette sketched the contours of this intramural strife with iconic host Steve Scully, who began by asking about a headline in Bloomberg Politics that "Pragmatism Is the New Extremism for House Republicans." A smiling LaTourette fired back with a charge that the extremism he saw was personified by the 25 Republicans who voted against the re-election of Boehner as speaker. He allowed that some might see an extreme position in the vow of moderate Republicans "to work within the constitutional system and make things work."

Scully next cited a story from Politico about Boehner's plans to have a "family discussion" about the actions of the dissenters after two of those members were at least temporarily stripped of their assignments to the House Budget Committee, which they enjoy at the sufferance of the speaker. LaTourette expressed frustration on the part of Boehner's allies, including himself, when he was in Congress, that Boehner "just wasn't tough enough" in keeping restive members in line.

LaTourette added that the majority of Republicans who did vote for Boehner are angry with the dissenters and believe that claims they were just voting the desires of their constituents "ring hollow." He quipped that never during his 18 years of service did a constituent urge him to vote for Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, for speaker. He blamed an "echo chamber" of Sean Hannity for supplying the motivation for Gohmert and another member to mount this challenge.

He suggested the movement raises the question, "Then what?" He questioned whether Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., could parlay his 12 votes into a majority or whether Republicans would prefer Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as speaker. He observed that the tradition is that the Conference of the Majority holds its vote and the entire Conference backs the winner, and he derided "this display on opening day as 'amateur hour.'"

In remarks this past Thursday played by Scully, Boehner lamented that he has been called "spineless" or "a squish" in light of his record as eighth most conservative House member in the days when he voted. Boehner pronounced himself even more pained to be described as "the Establishment." He protested that he is the speaker who got rid of earmarks and opened the legislative process to "regular order." Boehner pledged to prove to all the members that he is "up to the job." LaTourette insisted that Boehner and most Republicans are conservative, and he called the current strife within the party "unhealthy."

Finally, LaTourette defended the Leadership against a common charge that too many decisions are made by staff, contending that since the members are away half the time, decisions must be executed by staff, but the important policy decisions, like the course of tax reform, are made at the member level. For himself, he said he retired because the acrimony in Congress had gotten to the point where at the end of the day he wanted to do other things with his time.

On substantive matters, there was considerable discussion on the program about the merits of increasing the gas tax, and LaTourette argued that whether by the gas tax or otherwise, the need to rebuild the highway infrastructure must be addressed. He praised retired Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., for working with both parties to control spending. LaTourette vigorously denied that Republicans favor amnesty for illegal immigrants, and he supported the right of states and the District of Columbia to decide whether to legalize marijuana.

While softening criticism of President Obama compared to conservatives, LaTourette joined them in calling for limits on the executive authority of any president to govern through the bureaucracy rather than work with Congress. He cited in particular the issues of immigration and the environment, noting that 85 percent of Ohio's power comes from coal-fired plants. On the brewing presidential election, he made positive remarks about the candidates but suggested it might be time for a president other than a Bush or a Clinton.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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Former Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, now CEO of the Republican-Main Street Partnership, which is composed of 66 "Rockefeller Republicans," appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal to talk about the way moderate Republicans see the issues likely to be considered during the 114th Congress.
LaTourette, Boehner, Congress, Republican
Monday, 12 January 2015 08:00 AM
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