Pelosi quietly let it be known to the Republican leadership that if Boehner chose to tough it out, she had in mind a plan that wouldn’t require Democrats voting for him, would pass Constitutional muster, and keep Boehner in the Speaker’s chair. Pelosi credits Oregon Democrat Suzanne Bonamici with suggesting that a Speaker can be elected by a plurality. “The Constitution says ‘elect Speaker’ – it doesn’t say by majority vote,” Pelosi explained.
House rules require a majority of those present, and if fewer Democrats were present on the day of the vote, for example, Boehner could have reached a majority with, say, 210 votes instead of 218, allowing the Freedom Caucus to take its stand without affecting the outcome.
Pelosi was ready to have “one of my people” question the presiding chair on the day of the vote. “We would protect the institution,” she said. “We would not let a Speaker be overthrown.”