Tea party champion Rep. Mark Meadows filed a motion Tuesday to oust House Speaker John A. Boehner from his leadership post, escalating the feud between a faction of conservative lawmakers and the Republican leadership.
Mr. Meadows, North Carolina Republican, filed a motion to “vacate the chair,” which could force a no-confidence vote by the full chamber and result in the removal of Mr. Boehner as speaker.
In the resolution, Mr. Meadows says Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, “has endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent.”
He accused the speaker of limiting debate, pushing legislation to the brink to compel votes in a state of crisis, and moving to “punish Members who vote according to their conscience” instead of how he wants.
The Meadows resolution says Mr. Boehner has caused the Congress to “atrophy,” making it “subservient” to the executive and judicial branches.
Conservatives long have urged a coup against Mr. Boehner, who they view as too eager to make deals with Democrats and unwilling to go to the mat fighting for conservative principles.
Still, the maneuver attempted by Mr. Meadows is extremely difficult to pull off because it would require majority support of the full chamber — including Democrats — to succeed.
The motion also was filed as a nonprivilege resolution, sending it to the House Committee on Rules, which could choose to take it up or not, as is the case with all legislation that comes before the committee.
Mr. Boehner did not comment on the attempted coup Tuesday, but he is expected to hold a regularly scheduled press conference Wednesday.
Boehner supporters in the House Republican conference remained confident that he would survive as speaker. The timing of the resolution, which was filed just a day before the House was to adjourn for a six-week recess, signaled to many on Capitol Hill that the coup attempt was more bark than bite.
Despite the long odds on removing Mr. Boehner, conservative groups rallied to Mr. Meadows’ side.
“Every time defenders of freedom need a leader, John Boehner has failed us,” said FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon. “It’s time to remove Boehner from the speakership before it’s too late to pass bold reforms. Under his speakership, the Republican-controlled House has allowed taxes and spending to increase, and their agenda revolves more about pleasing lobbyists than standing on principle. It’s time to end the Boehner Blunder.”
In the resolution, Mr. Meadows also accused Mr. Boehner of directing the Rules Committee to limit “meaningful amendments,” assailing the same committee that can decide the fate of his motion.
He ended the resolution with a flourish, saying the House, “to function effectively in the service of all citizens of this country, requires the service of a Speaker who will endeavor to follow an orderly and inclusive process without imposing his or her will upon any Member thereof.”
For those reasons, it says, the speaker’s chair “is hereby declared to be vacant.”
Mr. Meadows’ resolution appeared to catch the entire House Republican leadership team by surprise, although the trouble between conservatives and the GOP leadership has been brewing for months.
At the start of the 114th Congress, 25 Republican lawmakers withheld support from electing Mr. Boehner as speaker, which was the largest insurrection against a sitting speaker since 1923.
In recent weeks, tension has been building between Mr. Boehner and the conservative Freedom Caucus that includes Mr. Meadows.
The leadership team ejected three conservative members from the whip team and stripped Mr. Meadows of his subcommittee chairmanship on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for voting against a trade bill backed by Mr. Boehner and President Obama.
Freedom Caucus members have been grumbling about being denied meetings with Mr. Boehner.
Much of the anger directed at Mr. Boehner has come form conservative leaders outside of Congress.
David Bossie, president of the conservative activist group Citizens United, gave voice to the anti-Boehner movement in an op-ed Monday on Brietbart.com.
“After three election cycles and more than four and a half years, grassroots conservatives have grown tired of waiting for [Mr. Boehner] to pass the conservative agenda he’s repeatedly promised,” wrote Mr. Bossie.
“Time and time again, Boehner has failed to provide a vision or use the robust majority in the U.S. House — which conservatives provided him — to advance our policies,” he said. “Instead, Speaker Boehner has allowed President Obama to set the debate, set the terms, and summarily clean our clocks. Meekly, Boehner drifts along aimlessly and legislates by cliff and crisis, instead of bringing forward an optimistic agenda of bold colors that the American people crave.”
He looked to Mr. Meadows for action.
“Because of Boehner’s failure of leadership and a track record of broken promises, conservatives are ready for new leadership in the U.S. House now,” Mr. Bossie wrote. “Maybe newly empowered conservatives like Congressman Meadows will lead a revolt and finally take back the people’s House.”