By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A conservative member of the U.S. House of Representatives filed a motion on Tuesday to try to oust fellow Republican John Boehner from his leadership position, saying he was tired of a "punitive culture" against dissidents in the lawmaking body.
It is unlikely the motion by Representative Mark Meadows to remove Boehner as Speaker of the House will pass or even come to a vote, but it highlights the friction within the Republican Party ahead of a presidential election in 2016.
Meadows is a second-term lawmaker from North Carolina and a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservatives who often are at odds with Boehner. Recently they have disagreed on whether the Export-Import Bank, a government export credit agency, should be continued. Conservatives are trying to kill the bank; Boehner supports it.
Recently a committee chairman, presumably acting on orders of Boehner, stripped Meadows of his subcommittee chairmanship after Meadows and a number of other conservatives voted against a procedural motion during a heated trade debate in June.
Meadow's gavel was returned to him, reportedly after other members of the committee protested.
There was no comment from Boehner's office on Tuesday evening.
"Every member of Congress should have the ability to have their voice and their vote heard without fear of retribution if indeed they are representing the people back home," Meadows said.
Meadows' motion said the Speaker has "caused the power of Congress to atrophy" through inaction and "uses the power of the office to punish members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker."
In January, Boehner was re-elected to his third term as Speaker after surviving a challenge from 25 conservative Republicans in the biggest such intra-party rebellion against a Speaker candidate in over a century.
Meadow's challenge to Boehner comes as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also is under attack from conservatives within the Republican Party. Last week, Senator Ted Cruz, who is running for president, accused McConnell of lying to him and other Republicans about the leader’s plans for holding a vote on the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.
Some conservatives in the House spoke about Meadow's motion in favorable terms on Tuesday, while other members derided it as a publicity stunt.
"I guess some people can't get enough attention," said Representative Carlos Curbelo, a freshman representative from Florida, said as he left the Capitol on Tuesday.
Republican Representative Peter King expressed concern that public debate over the August recess would be focused on Meadows' motion instead of what King said should be the focus: the Iran nuclear deal.
But Representative Justin Amash, a member of the Freedom Caucus, spoke approvingly of Meadows' action, saying: "I've talked about the need for new leadership for a long time .. People at home want us to take a new direction."
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)