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Boehner's 'Plan B' Falters In The House

Dec 21, 2012
Originally published on December 21, 2012 9:21 pm



For more on yesterday's Republican meltdown, I'm joined by Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette of Ohio. He would have voted for Plan B if it had come up for a vote. He's a strong ally of Speaker Boehner, and he joins me now from Capitol Hill. Congressman LaTourette, welcome to the program.


BLOCK: Take us, if you would, inside that basement room in the Capitol last evening when Speaker Boehner came to you at the caucus and admitted he didn't have the votes. What else did he say and what was the reaction in that room?

LATOURETTE: Well, it started, I have to say, in a strange way in that the speaker led the conference in prayer and then the pledge of allegiance, which I've never seen in 18 years.

BLOCK: Not just any prayer, if I understand it, the Serenity Prayer.

LATOURETTE: No, it was the Serenity Prayer. It was. And when I heard my friend, the speaker, uttered the Serenity Prayer, I knew something was up.

BLOCK: You mean, the words God grant me this serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can?

LATOURETTE: The punch line was the last phrase, and that is the wisdom to know the difference. Yeah.

BLOCK: So you knew at that moment things had gone bad?

LATOURETTE: Yeah, I knew things had gone south. And he said, listen, this is going to be a real short conference. We don't have the votes, and therefore, we're not bringing it up. Merry Christmas.

BLOCK: And when he said, I do not have the votes, what was the reaction in the room?

LATOURETTE: I mean, first of all, I think that we were stunned, not that we didn't have the votes because that's happened a lot in this Congress since the 2010 elections. But we were stunned that that's it. I mean, you know, I come from the Tom DeLay era where I, you know, I - couple arms broken and teeth knocked out. Everything else...

BLOCK: You're talking about the velvet hammer?

LATOURETTE: Yeah, the velvet hammer. And so, you know, whipping is part of it on both sides of the aisle. And I was stunned. And the people around me was - I mean, it was silent. I mean, it was dead silence. I don't think people quite got that it was going to be over that quickly.

BLOCK: How many votes short did Plan B fall, do you know?

LATOURETTE: No, I don't know. And, you know, that'll die with the leaders. But my sense is that if you've watched this Congress, there's been 40, 48, 50 Republican House members that no matter how they try to accommodate them, they wouldn't be accommodated.

BLOCK: Well, those 40 to 50 people whom you're talking about, you've called them before chuckleheads. Is that how you describe them?

LATOURETTE: Well, they are chuckleheads. And by chuckleheads, I mean that, you know, our responsibility in the majority is to govern. And you don't put forward an agenda no matter which party is in charge successfully unless you can deliver enough votes on your side to put the bill in play with the Senate and the president.

And, you know, so the same people that say that we can't go down the path that President Obama wants to lead us or Nancy Pelosi, they haven't gotten it through their heads that every time Speaker Boehner can't garner 218 votes on our side, he has to then go over hat in hand to the Democratic leadership or the White House. And anybody that thinks that then becomes a more Republican bill is a chucklehead.

BLOCK: Well, if a plan were to emerge from President Obama and from the Senate on the fiscal cliff, some kind of deal, are there enough Republicans who would vote with the Democrats to pass it?

LATOURETTE: Yeah. I mean, it would depend what it looks like obviously. But if it's along the lines of what everybody expects - and speaking as a Republican, I mean, I think I've tried to outline as best I can the failings of my party. But I do think that the president is a little light on the spending side. If the president and Senator Reid really put forward a balanced approach, and the president has previously described that as $3 spending cuts for every dollar in revenue increases, yeah, you'd get enough votes to join with Democrats to pass the bill.

But having said that, you'd lose some Democrats obviously. And so, you know, the way these things were always done in the past is you get 120 from one side and 120 from the other side. And those that couldn't get there went about their business, but you were able to govern the country.

BLOCK: Well, do you expect that you're going to have the chance to vote on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff or not?

LATOURETTE: I, you know, I really don't know. I would say that it's too fresh from last night's really shocking turn of events. And, you know, this is a season of miracles. So maybe people will be inspired by the spirit of the season and come back with a fresh attitude. But I'm pessimistic at this point. I mean, I would say these people on both sides that have done the calculation and think that going over the cliff is better than reaching a deal.

BLOCK: Congressman LaTourette, thanks so much for talking with us.

LATOURETTE: Hey, thank you so much.

BLOCK: That's Congressman Steve LaTourette, Republican of Ohio.



You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.