Speaker John Boehner and Republican leaders in the House are apparently worried about Rep.-elect Mark Sanford (R-SC):
Boehner on Tuesday morning suggested that he was less than thrilled about Sanford’s potential return to the House. And while the Speaker tweeted out a quick “congrats” to Sanford with the hash-tag jobs, a comment from his spokesman following the results was less than a bear-hug.
“He could be an added voice to the opposition — to those who like to make trouble for the Republican leadership,” GOP strategist Ron Bonjean, a former top House leadership aide, told The Hill. “It’ll definitely be a leadership management issue.”
Sanford made it clear in Tuesday night’s victory speech that he wasn’t returning to Washington to make friends — the same approach he took when he was a thorn in the side of GOP leadership during his first stint in Congress in the 1990s, and when he fought tooth-and-nail with the Republican-controlled statehouse during his governorship.
The newly elected congressman said voters had sent a “message to Washington, D.C., and a messenger to Washington, D.C., on the importance on changing things in that fair city.”
Boehner has since reached out to Sanford in an attempt to “make nice,” as Politico described it. And while it’s never too late to mend fences, Sanford built a reputation as an outspoken fiscal conservative during his previous three terms in the House. Additionally, the fact the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) recently spurned him could provide even more of an incentive for an already independent-minded Sanford fall in line when GOP leaders decide to deviate from fiscally conservative principles.
In book, Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, Stephen Slivinski notes that Sanford was part of a small group of conservatives led by then Reps. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Steve Largent (R-OK) in the House who frequently challenged then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and other Republican leaders on spending.
The premise of Slivinski’s book is that the Republican-controlled House, led by Gingrich, compromised the principles of the Contract with America time and time again. It was these compromises, Slivinski contended here at United Liberty in December 2011, that led to the explosive growth in government during the president of George W. Bush.
After passage of the pork-laden FY 1999 omnibus appropriations bill, Sanford, who voted against the spending, said, “I remember reading about all these Christmas-tree bills before I came to Congress and being disgusted. And now we’re ending up here.”
Just before he left Congress in 2001 to run for Governor of South Carolina, Sanford looked back on his time in Washington. “[You] would hate to say that you spent six years of your life at a job and at the end of it government was spending more and taxing more than when you came,” he said. “But that’s where we are.”
Sanford was one of the few members who were trying to hold Republicans accountable. Perhaps if Republicans had listened to he and other conservatives, stayed true to their principles at that time and into the Bush Administration, they may not have lost the House in the 2006 mid-term election.
Republicans in Washington don’t want an independent thinker, a fiscal conservative who is going to challenge them when they’re wrong. That’s what they’re getting with Sanford. It’s one more member to hold them accountable, and they’re scared of it.