WASHINGTON ― A top Democratic congressman on Friday unsuccessfully tried to create a special committee to investigate why House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) abruptly fired the House chaplain last week.
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, introduced a resolution on the House floor calling for a new committee to examine “the motivations and actions” of Ryan when he unexpectedly told House Chaplain Patrick Conroy to resign or be forced out. Conroy has said he was blindsided, and some lawmakers in both parties, particularly Catholics, are furious. Ryan has given no reason.
Crowley’s proposal would have created a six-member committee ― three Republicans and three Democrats ― to look at what happened.
But the House voted to reject his proposal, 215 to 171. Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) were the only Republicans who voted with Democrats to create the committee. Three Republicans voted “present”: Reps. Tom Rooney, David Joyce and Scott Taylor.
A GOP aide with a sense of the Republican conference told HuffPost that the resolution would have passed if it didn’t include the partisan language Democrats put in it. Crowley’s resolution twice refers to the Republican tax plan as the “GOP tax scam.”
Here’s a copy of the resolution:
The speaker’s office still won’t say why Ryan fired Conroy, who has been the House chaplain since 2011. His last day will be May 24.
But Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told HuffPost on Thursday that he is “informed reliably” by GOP colleagues that Ryan wanted the chaplain gone because he was mad about a prayer that Conroy gave during last fall’s debate on the GOP’s tax bill.
Ryan read that prayer as a “tilt to the Democrats” because it implied criticisms of the tax cuts being more beneficial to the rich,Connolly said Republican lawmakers told him.
“They cite that as evidence as that being more political than he’s comfortable with,” Connolly said.
The speaker’s office denied that Conroy was forced out over a specific prayer, but would not clarify if the chaplain’s prayers during the tax debate were related to his termination. The office also would not give HuffPost a reason for Conroy’s termination.
“The speaker consulted with the minority leader, but the decision was his,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong. “He remains grateful for Father Conroy’s service.”
After Friday’s vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she expressed her “forceful disagreement” with Ryan’s decision to push Conroy out.
“It is my hope that we will honor Father Conroy’s service by pursuing justice and making clear the true motivations of this unjust action,” Pelosi said in a statement. “During Father Conroy’s entire service, I’ve never received a complaint from our Members about him pastoring to the needs of the House.”
This story has been updated with a statement from Nancy Pelosi.