A recent poll of self-identified Republicans revealed that, despite being both liked and trusted, a majority would like to see someone other than Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) hold the Speaker’s gavel in 2015.
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake had an interesting take on this survey. Noting the inconsistency associated with a majority of respondents both saying they “trust” Boehner to take on conservative issues but also want him to vacate his leadership position, Blake determined that this poll should be taken with a giant grain of salt. The Post analyst theorized that the results in this survey are indicative of a general frustration with Congress as an institution rather than Boehner personally or professionally.
The temptation to replace a congressional leader — whose job, almost by definition, leads to being unpopular — with some undefined, idealistic replacement is a pretty natural reaction to Congress being terrible. And the GOP base loves to tweak its leadership.
If you matched up Boehner against a real-life politician, though, you’re likely to get a very different answer. Somebody should poll that.
Good point, but who? This weekend, the polling community got some answers.
Perhaps emboldened by this controversial survey, conservative Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) announced on Saturday that he would challenge the Ohio Republican for his leadership post. Yoho was followed shortly thereafter by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) who told the hosts of Fox & Friends on Sunday that he, too, would challenge the Speaker in the new Congress. “Gohmert also hinted that another House member will announce a challenge to Boehner on Sunday,” Fox News reported.
Boehner once again returns to Capitol Hill amid challenges to keep his post, largely from the conservative members who most recently say he caved in by agreeing last month to a $1.1 trillion temporary federal spending bill, which averted another partial government shutdown.
Group members complained in part because they think Boehner did not try to punish President Obama enough for sidestepping Congress on immigration reform.
“After the November elections gave Republicans control of the Senate, voters made clear they wanted change,” Gohmert also said Sunday. “There have been numerous examples of problematic Republican leadership, but we were hopeful our leaders got the voters’ message. However, after our speaker forced through the CR omnibus by passing it with Democratic votes and without time to read it, it seemed clear that we needed new leadership. There had been much discussion. But, until yesterday, no one had stepped up.”
If Yoho and Gohmert’s desire is to unseat Boehner, they should have perhaps coordinated their campaigns. Both these conservative politicians share relatively similar constituencies in the House. This mysterious third Republican who Gohmert teased would also come out to challenge Boehner is likely to come from the same wing of the GOP.
But Liam Donovan suggested that, if Gohmert and Yoho draw enough Republican members between them, they might force a second ballot. What’s more, while this cabal is unlikely to succeed in ousting Boehner, they certainly could compel the current leadership to embrace some of the conservative wing’s demands. A Heritage Action memo released ahead of the leadership votes previews just how effective a modest uprising might be:
A sufficiently large block of Republicans—29 Members with the current political composition of the House (246 GOP-188 Democrats)—can prevent their party’s nominee from achieving the necessary majority to be elected Speaker. For instance, in 1923, the progressive wing of the Republican Party blocked a Republican from being Speaker until some of their procedural demands were adopted. This occurred over three days and nine different ballots. Similarly the House has seen lengthier delays in electing the Speaker. In 1849, the House required over 59 ballots and 19 days to elect a Speaker. In 1856, more than 129 ballots were required.
That said, this whole effort feels rather familiar. Boehner faced a mutiny during the leadership vote in 2013 when the Republican Party’s political circumstances were far less favorable than they are today. Of the 234 Republicans in the last House, 220 backed Boehner. Republicans unhappy with the Speaker’s leadership cast their votes for Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), Eric Cantor (R-VA), and even former Rep. Allen West (R-FL).
All in all, a rare second ballot for leadership seems unlikely with an even larger GOP conference composed of more members who will not want to open their congressional careers by frustrating leadership. Even if Yoho and Gohmert manage to achieve this feat, no small accomplishment, it is hard to imagine that translating to a general mutiny against the Speaker.
This year’s insurrection does seem somewhat more organized than that which inaugurated the 113th Congress. Still, the prospect of unseating Boehner remains a longshot.