Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on Thursday charged his own Republican leadership with abusing House procedures this week in order to quickly pass a defense bill that no one had time to read, and an immigration bill that was watered down in a way that favors President Barack Obama.
Gohmert ran unsuccessfully to be the chair of the House Republican Study Committee, a group that reflects the views of more conservative Republican members. But he said perhaps his loss was fortunate, since it frees him up to criticize GOP leaders when necessary.
"Maybe it's fortunate," Gohmert said on the House floor. "I'm not the RSC chair, so I'm here to complain about the abuses when they happen by our own leadership."
The huge defense bill authorizes a total of $557.1 billion in spending for fiscal year 2015. As they so often do, this bill passed easily in a bipartisan 300-119 vote on Thursday, and the Senate is expected to take it up next week.
But Gohmert said that while he thinks there are many good things in the huge bill, it was only cleared by the House Rules Committee Wednesday night, which meant no one had time to read and understand the bill.
"We didn't have the three days that were originally promised by Republicans," he said. "I voted no against a process that takes something as important as our national defense, and said, 'here you go, here's the whole thing, trust us, vote for it.' "
"You can't push a bill this important on us," he added. "I couldn't in good conscious vote yes."
In the final vote, 32 Republicans voted against the bill. During the week, many Republicans complained about language in the defense bill that designates hundreds of thousands of acres of land as protected wilderness areas, and creates new national parks. Send. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have both criticized the House bill for those reasons.
The immigration bill that the House passed yesterday would nullify Obama's executive action on immigration, but it was criticized by many Republicans because it's a bill the Senate doesn't have to take up, and in fact, the Senate will not consider it. Many Republicans are still hoping that the House takes up a must-pass spending bill next week that prevents the administration from implementing Obama's immigration plan.
But Republicans like Gohmert were also critical of the substance of the bill. Gohmert noted that the bill was re-written in the House Rules Committee to say the president cannot exempt whole classes of people from immigration laws, except if there are "humanitarian purposes where the aliens are at imminent risk of serious bodily harm or death."
Gohmert said he cosponsored the original bill, but that he could not support this change. He said the exception language might even be used by Obama to justify Obama's recent action if it ever became law.
"The bill that I was willing to cosponsor completely changed in the addition of that exception," he said.
Just before the House vote, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he also opposed language in the changed bill that seems to suggest that the executive branch might in some cases be able to exempt whole classes of people from immigration law, and said that language makes the bill ambiguous. King was one of the three Republicans who voted "present."