Ready for The Great Revolt, Part Deux? Two years ago, Republicans lost seats in the House but narrowly kept the majority in the election that kept Barack Obama in the White House for a second term, and GOP conservatives promised to unseat John Boehner as Speaker in dissatisfaction with his management. In the end, only nine votes opposed Boehner as Speaker, though, and the episode became a footnote in the groundswell-backlash against Obama over the next 22 months.
Now House conservatives plan a second attack on Boehner’s leadership in tomorrow’s vote, even though the midterm victory gives Boehner a much wider margin of error:
The latest Republicans to announce plans to oppose Boehner are Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, Iowa Rep. Steve King and Virginia Rep. Dave Brat, who all made public their intentions in Sunday evening statements. That makes at least eight House Republicans who have publicly come out against Boehner’s re-election, with more expected Monday.
“Trust is a series of promises kept; my vote for new leadership reflects a promise I made to voters when they elected me,” Gosar said. “I cannot stand beside the same leadership that has offered up bills too large to read, used parliamentary tricks to bring bills to the floor and has refused to take swift action against the president and his administration’s unconstitutional actions.”
The official speaker’s election is set for Tuesday, when the House will convene for a public floor vote to open the new Congress.
While the vote is usually just a formality, the hope of the anti-Boehner bloc is for enough Republicans to deny Boehner a majority of the vote, forcing him out of the race. Under the rules, that would likely require about 30 Republicans voting for someone else.
There is a certain amount of irony in this. Nancy Pelosi has lost three election cycles in a row as the leader of the House Democratic caucus, and yet a serious threat to her leadership has yet to emerge. Democrats seem content to lose elections, while Republicans seem to grow discontented with victories.
The vote for Speaker takes place among the full floor, which means that the winner has to take one vote more than half of the House — 218 votes. Two years ago, that meant that Boehner had to lose no more than 16 Republican votes to hold his position, and only nine ended up flipping. Today, it would take 29 votes to force Boehner out, more than three times what the anti-Boehner forces got when the Speaker was more politically vulnerable. Furthermore, the pickups in this past election may make the sales job even tougher, since it came at the expense of Democrats in swing districts, which are largely unlikely to produce anti-Boehner firebrands.
If this insurrection had a prayer of success, one would see people lining up to challenge Boehner. Instead, obvious choices like Trey Gowdy and Paul Ryan are repudiating the effort. Even if the rebels found a substantive challenger, the fundamentals of the Republican position won’t change anyway. Obama still has to sign their legislation, including budgets, and the Speaker still has to work with Mitch McConnell in the Senate, who will be even more likely to call all the shots if Boehner gets toppled in a caucus fight. That’s probably one good reason that the rebels can’t find a substantive leader around which to rally — all of those who’d qualify wouldn’t do anything much different than Boehner himself in the next 22 months, and none of them would trust the rebels to deliver the votes, especially after 2013’s abortive effort.
There are certainly legitimate gripes about Boehner’s choices, especially the decision to push the “cromnibus” rather than a 90-day CR, but that would have been fodder for the House Republican Conference in December. The rebels apparently didn’t make the case during that confab with their fellow House Republicans, which makes this look a lot like 2013’s effort: a publicity stunt that’s doomed to failure, and one that doesn’t have any real support outside of those making statements to the press. It will make for a few fun minutes of drama tomorrow, but by the end of the week will be largely forgotten … or so the rebels will hope.