S.C. Rep. Mulvaney says he and Boehner have cleared the air


McClatchy Newspapers

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney said Thursday that he and House Speaker John Boehner patched things up after the South Carolina Republican declined to vote last week for the Ohioan’s re-election to the chamber’s top post.

Mulvaney confirmed that his failure to vote for Boehner was intentional, as he chose not to respond on two occasions Jan. 3 when his name was called during the vote for speaker.

“I think ‘silent protest’ was the right description,” Mulvaney told McClatchy.

Eleven other House Republicans, none from South Carolina, also passed on Boehner. Nine voted for other people to be speaker, one said he abstained, and another – Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho – joined Mulvaney in choosing not to respond when asked for his preference.

Mulvaney, of Indian Land, a former state legislator starting his second U.S. House term, said his protest was partly aimed at the last-minute deal to avert the fiscal cliff that Boehner helped negotiate with President Barack Obama and other congressional leaders.

Mulvaney was among 151 House Republicans who voted against the package, saying it didn’t include spending cuts and allowed taxes to rise on annual household income over $450,000.

In an interview Thursday, Mulvaney said there were other reasons behind his protest vote, but he declined to elaborate.

“There was more than one thing,” he said.

After the vote for speaker, Mulvaney said he had a personal meeting with Boehner’s chief of staff, who arranged what became a 20-minute phone conversation between the two men.

“I had a long private conversation with John,” Mulvaney said. “He understood why I voted the way I did. It was a really good conversation. I think we have a really good chance to work together for reforms. I’m very positive about my relationship with John Boehner right now.”

Mulvaney and three other South Carolina Republicans – Tim Scott, Trey Gowdy and Jeff Duncan – were first elected to the U.S. House in the 2010 wave elections.

After running on anti-spending platforms with strong tea party support, the four South Carolina freshmen made national news in July 2011 by opposing several compromises Boehner reached on raising the federal debt ceiling.

All four were re-elected in November, and Gov. Nikki Haley chose Scott to replace Sen. Jim DeMint after his unexpected resignation to lead the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Mulvaney declined Thursday to describe the reforms he and Boehner had discussed last week or to provide other details of their talk.

Asked whether Boehner was angry over his protest non-vote, Mulvaney responded: “You’ll have to ask him that question.”

Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman, said Thursday there were no ill effects from what some had described as a mini-coup attempt against his leadership.

“Like the speaker told those who didn’t vote for him, he doesn’t hold grudges, and his door is always open,” Buck told McClatchy.

Sarah Binder, an expert on Congress with the center-left Brookings Institution in Washington, said Mulvaney’s decision to remain silent in the vote for speaker was a valid response.

“My sense is that it was explicitly a protest vote,” she said. “I would interpret his vote as just sending a message to Boehner that his power as speaker relies on the consent of all those in his (Republican) conference.”

Binder said Mulvaney delivered a symbolic shot across the bow that resulted in an extended personal conversation with Boehner to air his grievances.

“I think it’s very clear what Mulvaney’s policy views are,” she said. “He’s probably in sync with many of his constituents. This wasn’t personality-motivated, this was a voted based on policy differences. That’s a legitimate way to represent your constituents.”

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