Report: 40 House Republicans ready to vote against Boehner for Speaker next year?

We’ve been told before that a tea-party revolt was brewing, only to see it fall flat, so maybe this is idle saber-rattling on a slow news day.

Riddle me this, though. If this is just a bluff, what’s the angle? What do the anti-Boehner forces gain by warning this guy through the media that he has nothing to lose by screwing the caucus every which way before the midterms? If he’s a dead man walking, what’s keeping him from bringing amnesty to the floor and letting 20 RINOs pass it with Pelosi’s help?

“My sense at the present time that the Speaker doesn’t have the support of the conference,” says South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan about John Boehner. Another member of the House privately estimates that 40 Republican lawmakers would vote against Boehner on the floor and says “I’ve seen a running total.”

“Believe me, they’re not going to go through the national embarrassment — all of the cameras are on the floor — they’re not going to go through that. A leader will emerge before that happens,” the source adds…

Majority Leader Eric Cantor has turned up the intensity of his outreach to members in preparation for the possibility Boehner retires but is facing new questions from the right about his conservative bona fides…

“I could go through chapter and verse on multiple times when we ended up having some crappy vote on the floor and it was all Cantor’s idea,” the member who estimated 40 lawmakers would vote against Boehner says. “Almost every time we’ve violated the Hastert rule, it’s been something that Cantor was pushing. I think he’s more scary than Boehner.”

Duncan insists “there are conversations being had.” If this were a bluff, designed to goose tea partiers into turning out in even heavier numbers this fall with the prospect of turning the House redder and installing a more conservative Speaker, then the whisperers should be claiming that they don’t have the votes yet, right? That’s why they need righties to go to the polls; only by electing another dozen or so tea partiers, the theory would go, could they be assured of beating Boehner next January. Instead, they’re saying they … already have the numbers. (Forty votes would be more than enough to prevent a House majority on Boehner’s behalf, unless a few dozen centrist Republicans defeated Democrats this fall.) So there’s no extra incentive to turn out if you’re a Boehner-hater. On the contrary, if you’re a centrist Republican who thinks the House caucus needs a moderating hand on the wheel, this is an incentive to stay home or vote Democratic. And if you’re Boehner, it’s an incentive to pass agenda items this year, like immigration reform, that you fear might otherwise alienate the tea party. Why not, if you’re being pushed towards the exit anyway?

Could be this is a ghost-of-Christmas-future thing, where tea partiers warn him of what might happen if he proceeds with things like amnesty, but in that case you’d expect them to make their demands explicit. Nope. There’s nothing in Jonathan Strong’s piece about immigration specifically. Which leaves us with one obvious possibility: Maybe, despite all the rumors about Boehner considering retirement, he’s now leaning towards staying on another two years. That would make sense, given the growing odds that the GOP will retake the Senate. Boehner’s always wanted to strike a grand bargain with Obama on deficit reduction; maybe he reasons that having control of both chambers is the party’s last best chance to pressure O into a deal. And House tea partiers, realizing that he’s now inclined to stay, have decided they need to rattle the saber to make him change his mind. Retire — or be ousted in humiliating fashion. But if Boehner goes and Cantor is unacceptable, who’s next?