Back in 2003, when Congressional Republicans desperately needed votes to pass a GOP bill, former Colorado Congressman Joel Helfley voted “yes” only after Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert essentially told him that a no vote would cost him his position as chair of a House committee.
That’s what happened in 2003, during the roll-call vote for the Medicare Part D legislation, according to former Rep. Tom Tancredo, as once told to KNUS 710-AM’s Peter Boyles.
The story has obvious relevance today as the pressure builds on Colorado Republicans, like U.S. Rep. Ken Buck and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, to support the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamcare.
TANCREDO: Oh, Joel was the best! He was like a 98-percenter. And we’re sitting there – 6:30 [a.m.] – nothing. I mean, it’s 217. You need 218, one more vote. And they can’t get it! Here comes the Speaker. [gesturing with his hands, indicating a man walking down to the floor]. Doo, doo-doo, doo-doo,– down, comes, sits next to Joel. I’m in back of them, going [gestures that he was eavesdropping]. You know, because everyone is – there’s quiet. Everybody is, you know – you’re all on the floor. They won’t let you leave. So, but everyone can see what’s happening. And then, the Speaker walks down, and he says, “Joel, we came in as Freshmen together, 22 years ago.”
TANCREDO: Freshman class. And Joel said, “Yes, sir, we did.” And he said, “I’ve always enjoyed it, you’re such a great guy,” he said. “And you’re the Chairman of the, uh—what was it? It was the sub-committee on – oh! Armed Services.
BOYLES: [inaudible] Yeah!
TANCREDO: And he said, — because he was [from] Colorado Springs, you know –.
BOYLES: Of course. Of course.
TANCREDO: And he said, uh, and he said, “You’re the head of the” – I think it was called – “the NATO Parliamentary Assembly” – it was kind of a hot-shot thing. We got to travel all over. He always asked us. It was great fun! Anyway, great guy, great guy. “But I need you,” [the Speaker said to Joel Hefley]. “I never asked you before for anything, right?” And Joel says, “No, sir.” And he says, “Well, I need you. This is it, buddy. I want it.” And Joel says, “I can’t, Mr. Speaker. I just can’t do it.” And he goes, “You enjoy being that Chairman, right?” –and all that. And he says, “You want to be [Chairman] tomorrow?”
TANCREDO: This – this—this—this is his buddy! This is his pal! And he goes back and sits down. And I leaned over and I said, “Did I just hear him threaten you with your Chairmanship?”
BOYLES: Yeah. Yeah.
TANCREDO: Joel just looks ahead, right? Doesn’t say a word. We wait. We wait, it’s quiet. There’s nothing. All of a sudden, he gets up, votes,– walks down. Oh, my God! I literally – and I’m not kidding you, I almost threw up! I mean, I got – we had been there all night. It was very emotional. There was a lot of crap going on. And now, here’s my best – oh, my God! And he walks down, and he would have to pick up the green thing and go, and hand it to the girl. And she goes, “REPRESENTATIVE HEFLEY: OFF “NO”! ON “AYE!” And they – and the hammer goes down. Boom! Two-hundred and eighteen. It passed. You know, he never was the same after that. He stayed another term but, you know, he got shingles.