As Congress prepares to head home for the August recess, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) is facing yet another challenge to his speakership. This time, it comes in the form of a resolution, offered by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), that seeks to oust Boehner using a rare procedural move that hasn’t been attempted for a hundred years:
Until now, the North Carolina Republican had taken small steps to undermine Boehner — he voted against procedural motions and against Boehner for speaker. Now he’s declared all-out war, and he could quickly find out how many people are willing to back him up.
Meadows, however, didn’t go as far as he could have. A motion to vacate the chair — last attempted roughly a century ago — is typically considered a privileged resolution. In that format, the House would hold a vote within two legislative days. Meadows, however, chose not to offer it in that form, which he said was a sign that he wanted a discussion.
Sure, I know I start most of my discussions with “You go now!” It’s an ice-breaker. When this is over, Boehner will surely remember that Meadows only kicked him in one ball.
According to Politico, nobody thinks there are enough votes to oust Boehner, but sources familiar with the deliberations are unable to explain why I should give a shit. What I do find fascinating is this portion of Meadows’ resolution:
Whereas the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 114th Congress has endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent.
As any third-grader can probably tell you, there are 535 voting members of the U.S. Congress, as well as six non-voting members from American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. People often use “Congress” and “House of Representatives” interchangeably, but you would think that people who are actually in Congress would know better.
You would be wrong. According to the Sunlight Foundation’s Capitol Words database, “435 members of Congress” has been mentioned 73 times in the Congressional Record since 1996, most often by Republicans. There have been 106 mentions of “535 members of Congress,” and only one mention of “541 members of Congress,” by Democrat Norman Dicks. Coincidentally, there have been hundreds of mentions of “Dicks” in the Congressional record.
I realize that “Members of the House of Representatives” is a little bit unwieldy, but that’s the name we chose for our lower chamber, and “Congress” is the name we chose for both the House and the Senate combined. Maybe someone ought to think up a snappier name (maybe”The Octagon”) and put it up for a vote, but until then, the people who serve in Congress ought to know how many people are in it.