Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Memo Shows How Gingrich Cracks the Whip in House Speaker Threatens to Punish Members; Emerson Was Target

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Memo Shows How Gingrich Cracks the Whip in House Speaker Threatens to Punish Members; Emerson Was Target

Article excerpt

A SECRET GOP memo that fell into the wrong hands last week details how top House Republicans are using strong-arm tactics behind closed doors to keep their troops in line.

Included are threats by Speaker Newt Gingrich to unseat a committee chairman and bounce recalcitrant GOP members, including Rep. Bill Emerson of Missouri, from choice committees if they refused to follow his orders for cutting farm programs.

After the memo became public, Republicans quickly laughed it off as overdramatic and not entirely accurate. Still, conceded Rep. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., "It did provide a pretty juicy tale."

Gleeful Democrats called the memo proof that House Republicans are not voting as their constituents want, but as Gingrich tells them to.

If they do not obey the Republican from Georgia, they will be severely punished.

"That's exactly what the memo suggests," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D. "It makes very clear the level of coercion that Speaker Gingrich has applied to try and get a bill out the House Agriculture Committee."

Political analysts do not see it quite so darkly, but they agree the memo suggests a new type of firm control. Burdett Loomis, a University of Kansas professor, said, "That is a huge change from the Congresses over the last 30 to 40 years."

Most of the GOP memo dealt with how to get Southern Republicans to support Roberts' controversial bill to cut $13 billion in payments, end government farm programs and gradually phase out crop subsidies.

Trouble is, cotton farmers do not want to phase out subsidies, so Republicans from cotton-growing regions have refused to vote for it, blocking the process.

On Sept. 22, behind closed doors, Gingrich and Roberts led a discussion among House GOP leaders of how to force Southern Republicans into line.

First, Gingrich tried honey: "The four guys are not outlaws. . . . They need to be told that they matter," the memo says.

And then: "Newt then proceeded to issue threats that he can use":

Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., "will be taken off (the Agriculture Committee) and put on Transportation."

Rep. Bill Emerson, R-Mo., "will not become (Agriculture Committee) chairman if Roberts runs for the Senate. …

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