Report: 40-50 House conservatives plotting to oust Boehner as Speaker

If this feels like deja vu, it’s because Jonathan Strong of Breitbart reported the same thing more than two weeks ago. According to his and National Journal’s sources, there are now 40-50 Republicans in the House who are quietly committed to voting against Boehner in the next Speaker election in January — if he hasn’t already retired by then. That would deny him the majority he needs to take the gavel. Faced with the prospect of that humiliation, the thinking goes, he’ll quit before it ever comes to that. This story and Strong’s are the insurgents’ way of warning him to go away before he’s fired.

One new key detail: Cantor’s also on thin ice with tea partiers after orchestrating that embarrassing, and clearly fraudulent, voice vote on “doc fix” a few weeks ago. If he wants to succeed Boehner, he may have to appease the insurgents by replacing House whip Kevin McCarthy with a stalwart conservative as the new majority leader.

The masterminds of this mutiny are trying to stay in the shadows for as long as possible to avoid putting a target on their backs. But one Republican said the “nucleus”of the rebellion can be found inside the House Liberty Caucus, of which he and his comrades are members. This is not surprising, considering that some of the key players in that group—Justin Amash of Michigan, Raul Labrador of Idaho, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky—were among the 12 Republicans who refused to back Boehner’s reelection in January 2012…

With Boehner out of town in late March, Cantor was charged with pushing a “doc fix” bill across the finish line. When it became apparent the measure might not clear the House floor, Cantor authorized a voice vote, allowing the bill to pass without registered resistance. This maneuver infuriated conservatives, who felt that leadership—Cantor in particular—had cheated them. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Caroline yelled “Bullshit!” outside the House chamber…

Cantor told conservatives that a voice vote was “the least-bad option,” given the circumstances. But many Republicans aren’t buying it. Moreover, they said that with Boehner out of town, Cantor had an opportunity to impress them with his management of the conference—and didn’t.

“It’s an issue of trust. If you want to have a majority that is governing, and a majority that is following the leader, the rest of us need to be in a position where we trust our leadership,” Labrador said this week, adding, “When you have politicians actually playing tricks on their own party, and their own members of Congress, I think that erodes the trust the American people have in the rest of us.”

Said one House GOPer, “If there’s another vote like [that], Eric won’t be speaker. Ever.”

Could be this is all just a bluff to scare Boehner into appointing more conservatives to key committee posts. If, say, there are only 20-25 conservatives committed to ousting him, not 40-50, then he might survive a new insurrection from the right in January. By making him think now that their numbers are greater than they really are, House conservatives might muscle him into quitting or at least making concessions to them. (First concession: No more voice votes.) The problem, highlighted by National Journal, is that no one wants to risk Boehner’s wrath by volunteering to be the insurgents’ nominee for leadership. Both Jeb Hensarling and Jim Jordan have reportedly refused, maybe because they really don’t want to be in leadership or maybe because they fear stepping on Boehner’s toes right now when his future is still undetermined. Paul Ryan wants to lead Ways and Means, I think, not join the leadership, and even if he did, would he still have conservative support after the grumbling over his budget deal last fall? The insurgents could try something really bold and nominate someone new to Congress, like Labrador, but Boehner loyalists might dig in and block him right back in retaliation for ousting their guy. The insurgents need someone who’s liked by both wings of the caucus and who has enough seniority that even their opponents would be comfortable with him as majority leader or Speaker.

Here’s an out-of-the-box idea for you. Since Boehner’s the most centrist option among Republicans who might plausibly be elected Speaker next year, and since there’s at least a chance that conservatives will frighten him into retirement with threats of toppling him when the next House is seated, why doesn’t Pelosi approach Boehner and promise to get Democrats to vote for him if need be so that he can keep the gavel? If he’s stuck at, say, 210 votes because 40 conservatives refuse to vote for him, find 10 Dems who’ll get him to 220. It’s in their own interest to do it: Boehner would be much more pliable than a Speaker Cantor controlled by tea partiers would be, especially if Boehner owes his Speakership to Pelosi and the Dems. Democrats have nothing to lose in giving him those votes either, since there’s zero chance that Pelosi or anyone else on their side is getting to 218. Why note vote strategically and protect a guy from the other party who’s your least bad option as Speaker? Maybe he’ll even reward them by bringing immigration reform to the floor and letting them pass it with a few dozen Boehner loyalists on the GOP side. Fun!