After 50 or 60 false alarms over the past two years on this subject, you believe the big coup is finally in the offing now, don’t you?
As is customary for reports that House Republicans are plotting against Boehner, this one begins by noting tersely that the strategy thus far seems “disorganized” and “fluid.” Do tell.
“In tough times, it doesn’t mean you play timid, it means to play bold, and I don’t see that. And you know what? Time’s up,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who vowed to vote against Boehner, told The Hill in an interview. “I’m tired of the status quo of what’s going on in Washington, D.C. America’s tired, America’s angry and they’re scared, because they don’t have leaders in Washington, D.C.”…
[Steve] King told The Hill that “there have been a number of gatherings in the Capitol building and outside the Capitol building” focused on Boehner’s leadership, but he declined to provide more specifics about the meetings or offer up any names of potential challengers.
Jones, a second-generation congressman from coastal North Carolina, said he belongs to one of the groups holding anti-Boehner meetings. His group, made up of six to seven lawmakers, meets every few weeks in one of the members’ congressional offices…
Ten of the 12 Republicans who didn’t back Boehner in the public floor vote early last year are cruising to reelection. And a number of Republicans running to replace longtime retiring members in red districts have publicly stated they won’t back Boehner for Speaker.
Sounds like trouble’s a-brewin’. Is this the end for John Boehner, in the nick of time to prevent a horrible, horrible amnesty deal during the lame-duck session? No, probably not. There are actually two elections for Speaker, one among the GOP caucus itself that happens a few days after the midterms and then the formal election of the new Speaker among the entire House when the new Congress is seated in January. House Republicans are allowed to vote any way they like in the caucus election, but once someone (i.e. Boehner) has a majority of those votes in his favor, all Republicans are expected to support him in the January election of the full House. That didn’t happen two years ago: A dozen or so conservatives either abstained or voted for other colleagues, which was embarrassing to Boehner but not enough to deny him a majority of the whole House. The question now is whether there are suddenly enough dissident Republicans willing to defy the “support the caucus’s nominee” rule in January that they can deny Boehner the 218 votes he needs to win the gavel.
If you’re grasping at straws to convince yourself that this is the moment, National Journal published something last week claiming that Boehner’s GOP allies in the House were taking the threat of an insurgency seriously. Seriously enough, in fact, to propose strict penalties for any GOPer who votes against the caucus nominee next year:
According to people briefed on it, any Republican who votes on the House floor in January against the conference’s nominee for House speaker—that is, the candidate chosen by a majority of the House GOP during its closed-door leadership elections in November—would be severely punished. Specifically, sources say, any dissenters would be stripped of all committee assignments for that Congress.
“There’s a real concern that there’s between 30 and 40 people that would vote against the speaker on the House floor, so they’re trying to change the conference rules to make sure that doesn’t happen,” said a GOP member familiar with the proposal.
At the same, time, according to sources, conservative lawmakers are discussing something of a counter-proposal. Under their plan, the November leadership elections would be pushed back until after the lame-duck session of Congress ends in December. This idea was described by one House conservative as a preemptive strike to warn leadership not to consider any significant legislation during the 15-day period between November’s midterm elections and the start of the new Congress in January.
Jazz wrote about the NJ story this past weekend and asked a source close to the GOP leadership about it. The source basically laughed. The only reason I can come up with to think Boehner might be in more trouble this time than he was in the past is, as mentioned, the threat of an amnesty sellout during the lame-duck or early next year. Once the midterms are out of the way and conservative voters have done their duty, Boehner will come under heavy pressure from the donor class to get amnesty done and appease Latino voters before they’re irretrievably alienated ahead of 2016. Boehner’s more likely to respond to that pressure than a more conservative Speaker like Jeb Hensarling would be. And yet, he’s held off so far; if you’re a House Republican listening to the “Boehner’s for amnesty!” appeals from coup plotters, you can always reassure yourself that he hasn’t caved yet. Besides, given that nothing’s likely to get done in Congress until 2017 — except, possibly, amnesty — even some Boehner naysayers in the caucus might not mind keeping him around for two more years to preside over that stagnation. Obama’s going to veto anything that comes out of a Republican Congress (again, except immigration reform) so there’s not much damage Boehner can do as Speaker. Better to leave him in charge of that stalemate, then hope that a Republican gets elected president and Boehner decides to finally retire in 2016 so that a new wave of GOP leadership can take charge in both branches of government. As it is, if you knocked Boehner out now and replaced him with Hensarling, it’d be Hensarling who’d suffer through two years of frustration. Why not spare him the headache?
Best-case scenario for Boehner critics, I think, is the one Raul Labrador laid out: “However, if we don’t take the Senate, I think there might be rumblings as to maybe we need a new direction as a Republican Party.” Yeah. If the party can’t pick up six seats in an environment this favorable, it might be time to clean house in both chambers of Congress. Maybe you’ll see a real insurrection in the House then.