October 7, 2015
Arizona Republic
EJ Montini

This is the second time Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon has helped to lead a successful coup d'état against a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

I suspect he’ll keep doing it until he gets it right.

The first time was back in 1998 during Salmon’s first go-round in Congress. He was among a group of Republican lawmakers who dethroned then Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich. This time around, Salmon and House members of what they call the Freedom Caucus (others call them the “hell no” caucus or the “shutdown” caucus) gave the old heave-ho to Speaker John Boehner.

Technically, Boehner resigned his post. But he knew from conversations with members like Salmon that things didn't look good for him.

“I was one of the last people to meet with him (Boehner) before he made his announcement,” Salmon told me. The Freedom Caucus had the votes to keep him from being reelected in a vote of the full House.

So Boehner quit.

“People of all stripes are sick and tired of both parties,” Salmon told me. “That’s why the top Republicans in the presidential race are all outsiders.”

Salmon and the other members of his caucus are frustrated by the amount of legislation passed by the House that stalls in the Senate.

“What we want is a return to what is called ‘regular order,’” he told me. “The problem is the filibuster rule. If we had regular order you’d win some and you’d lose some but there would be a process. Votes would be taken. You wouldn’t need three-fifths majority to get something through.”

Since the 1970s senators have not needed to be on the floor of the senate to filibuster (as in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”) Now, they’re permitted what are called “virtual filibusters,” an easy way to block just about anything.

“We should be bigger than what’s going on,” Salmon said. “It’s a disservice to the country. This (Congress) should not be an autocratic institution where the leaders make a decision and shove it down our throats. It’s not about winning and losing, but about having a voice.”

It’s tough to know if the candidate for Speaker supported by Salmon’s group will make things better or worse.

That depends on your political persuasion. Although Salmon doesn’t see his group as rigid and intransigent.

“The national press makes the Freedom Caucus as totally ideologically driven but that isn’t it,” he said. “We deserve to be part of the conversation. My job is to uphold my oath of office. I feel like I’m supposed to be an agent of change. And if that leaves me in a bloody mess on the roadside, so be it.

It’s the second time, now, that Salmon has helped to send a Republican party bigwig packing, and he and his like-minded colleagues are determined to have a big say in Boehner’s replacement. Salmon is passionate about this, and he has moxie. You may think his politics are all wrong (as I do), but he’s in it for the right reason.

“You have to be willing to risk this job,” Salmon said. “Otherwise why come here?”

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