House Conservatives To Take On Speaker Gingrich

Conservative House Republicans are in an uproar today over Speaker Newt Gingrich’s decision to sanction House Republicans who don’t toe Gingrich’s line.

Members affected include Rep. Bob Dornan (R-CA) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). Dornan is considered among the most key members of Congress on defense issues; Smith is considered to be the most active Member of Congress on pro-life issues.

Gingrich has sanctioned Dornan by refusing to name him to the House/Senate conference committee on the Defense Authorization Bill, although, as a National Security Subcommittee Chairman, Dornan traditionally is considered a shoo-in for the conference committee. Smith has been banned from all conference committees and has furthermore been banned for using any government travel, forcing him to cancel an already-scheduled fact-finding trip.

Gingrich sanctioned the two members for disagreeing with Gingrich on several matters. These include a widely-reported dispute between Dornan and Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-WI), over Gunderson’s sponsorship of an AIDS fundraiser in a federal building at which open drug use and sexual acts allegedly took place in violation of federal regulations and laws (Gunderson is a personal friend of Gingrich), and the September 10 Republican primary in New York state. In the primary, Gingrich supports liberal Republican Rep. Sue Kelly (R-NY), best known in GOP circles for voting against the partial birth abortion ban. Dornan supports her challenger, former Rep. Joe DioGuardi , a pro-life Republican who served in the House of Representatives from 1985-89. DioGuardi is best known for defeating former liberal Democrat Representative Bella Abzug.

Conservative Members are angered by the sanctions against Dornan and Smith, in part because their departure from conference committees removes strong conservative and pro-life voices from those committees as important issues are resolved, and in part because many Members already believe Gingrich has been too soft on issues important to conservatives.

In response to Gingrich’s action 34 Members of Congress, including one Democrat, Rep. Harold Volkmer (R-MO), sent a letter to Gingrich urging him to appoint Dornan to the conference committee because, the letter says “Congressman Dornan has been a leading advocate for the United States Armed Forces. As you know, during conference committee negotiations, many of the essential or crucial items that were passed by the House are either dropped or severely watered down. As a champion of our military personnel, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines need Congressman Dornan fighting for them during these negotiations.”

Conservative Congressmen aren’t stopping there. They are challenging Speaker Gingrich directly. They’ve drafted a resolution, which will be submitted for a formal vote by the House Republican Conference, calling for a lifting of all the sanctions Speaker Gingrich has imposed. The text of that resolution follows:


WHEREAS when the American people elected the Republican 104th Congress, they chose the party of principle, reform, and open government; and

WHEREAS the Republican Conference recognizes that men and women who have devoted themselves to public service are and should be guided by principle; and

WHEREAS party primaries and conventions are the method ordained by law and tradition for resolving differences within the Republican party; therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the Republican Conference that in party primaries and conventions all Republicans, including Members of Congress and other elected officials, are and should be free to follow their consciences; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that on those extraordinary occasions when a Republican Member of Congress believes that sanctions should be imposed on another Republican Member of Congress on account of such Member’s support or opposition to a candidate for office, a resolution to impose such sanctions should be submitted to the entire Republican Conference, and no sanctions should be imposed in the absence of an affirmative vote of the Conference.

National Center for Public Policy Research

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