Boehner Gets Hill Digs, Hundreds of Thousands in Benefits. Two Republicans Want To Stop This
|Reps. Walter Jones, R-NC, left, and Thomas Massie,,|
R-KY, propose to eliminate a stipend and office space for
former House speakers. (Bill Clark/Via The Daily Signal)
Two conservative lawmakers are trying to change that.
Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Thomas Massie, R-Ky., were set to introduce legislation today to deny Boehner those benefits, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Taxpayers could be on the hook for millions, Massie says.
Current federal law provides funding for a former House speaker to maintain office space and staff to wrap up business related to his tenure.
In an interview, Massie told The Daily Signal that Boehner’s presence would neither be “welcome nor helpful.”
The Kentucky Republican said Boehner led the House “from one crisis to the next” and left the nation with a looming budget crisis “that was completely of his manufacturing.”
“After that, I would hope he has nothing to do with the goings-on here of Congress, because we want to do away with the way he did things,” Massie said.
Already the former speaker has hired three staffers, each with salaries of more than $100,000. If Boehner decides to set up shop, his new digs would be across the street from the Capitol in the Longworth House Office Building.
The last speaker to take advantage of these perks was Dennis Hastert, the Illinois Republican. The Chicago Tribune story reported in 2013 that Hastert occupied a Capitol Hill office for five years after he left Congress, at a cost of $1.9 million.
Jones and Massie speculate that Boehner’s tab could be higher.
The two conservatives held a press conference Wednesday morning in front of the Capitol. Massie blamed a chilly, cloudy December day for keeping reporters away.
Massie and Jones aim to add their measure banning Boehner to the upcoming omnibus spending bill. If that fails, they indicated that they will try again next year.
Though Massie insists that fiscal discipline is the intent of the legislation, he says he fears that the old speaker will use the office space to launch a new lobbying career.
“He has the office space, and the franking privileges—so he can still send official mail on the taxpayer dime—even though he’ll probably be a paid lobbyist and maybe collecting book royalties and speaking fees,” Massie said.
Federal law requires former members of Congress to observe a one-year “cooling-off period” before engaging in paid lobbying. In Massie’s opinion, that law is “inert” and isn’t likely to stop Boehner.
“My predecessor, Geoff Davis,” Massie told The Daily Signal, “was able to circumvent that rule and collect a paycheck immediately by being a, quote, consultant—as [former Majority Leader] Eric Cantor did.”
Under fire from conservatives, Boehner, from Ohio, stepped down from office in September and was succeeded in October by Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Since putting down the gavel, Boehner has spent time trying to take swings off his golf game rather than trying to influence Congress. In November, he joined LPGA golf stars for a tournament in sunny Naples, Fla.
Massie insisted he is not bitter about Boehner and said the former speaker’s new staff are “probably very willing and capable individuals.”
Would he ever check in with Boehner in his new office?
“I’d probably stop by to say hi to the staff,” Massie said, “but I think it’s very unlikely I’d see Boehner in that office.”
Philip Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) is the congressional correspondent for The Daily Signal.
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