Congressman: Speaker Boehner Lied to Me

Joel Gehrke – Stutzman’s Star Role in the Cromnibus.

Joel Gehrke – Stutzman’s Star Role in the Cromnibus

For a member of Congress to accuse his party leaders of lying to him, and for their aides to return the favor, is about as rare as the drama that surrounded last week’s procedural vote — a vote that led to the passage of the $1.1 trillion spending bill.

Advertisement That’s the situation Representative Marlin Stutzman (R., Ind.) found himself in last week after he lent his support to the spending package at a moment when it seemed unlikely to ever receive a final vote. Stutzman initially voted no on what is known as “the rule” — the procedural step that allows House leadership to bring the bill to the floor for debate. When he and one other member switched their no votes to yes, they set the stage for the ultimate success of the spending package.

The episode only heightens the distrust between leadership and conservative grassroots activists, who usually expect establishment Republicans to betray them. That suspicion has empowered junior lawmakers to override the will of more-senior Republicans.

Once in the limelight, Stutzman reacted by sending mixed messages and then falling as silent as the Republican leaders. He elevated the controversy Thursday night, when he claimed that his support for the rule was obtained under false pretenses.

“Earlier today, I supported the rule because I was informed by leadership that the cromnibus was dead and a short-term CR would take its place,” Stutzman said in a Thursday-evening statement after National Review Online reported on the apparent deal. “I was very surprised and even more disappointed to see the cromnibus back on the floor.”

Republican leadership passed the bill Thursday evening after President Obama and House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) convinced dozens of Democrats who had tried to kill the cromnibus on the procedural vote to nonetheless support the final package.

GOP leaders denied reneging on a promise to Stutzman: “Speaker Boehner did not talk with Representative Stutzman yesterday, and we don’t know what he is talking about,” one senior GOP leadership aide tells NRO. A senior aide to House leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) was even more definitive: “At no time was that communicated by the leadership team or the whip team.”

It makes sense that it’s Stutzman at the center of such a controversy. Throughout his four years in Congress, the tea-party congressman has been the backbencher with some of the closest ties to GOP leadership. But he’s also prone to bucking the party line when it violates his conservative principles.

Stutzman worked with Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) last October in an attempt to defund Obamacare by attaching the proposal to a must-pass spending bill that funded the rest of government, despite leadership’s initial hesitance to pick a fight over defunding Obamacare.

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