Boehner and Blunt to Lead House Republicans

John Boehner and Roy Blunt will lead the House Republicans in minority status, perhaps appropriate since they helped let them there.

House Republicans appear set to elevate two of their top leaders in internal party elections, despite unrest within the rank and file and spirited campaigns from conservative challengers. Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., both appear to be carrying comfortable leads into Friday’s closed-door elections. They are the second- and third-ranking Republicans behind Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., but they are poised to step up since Hastert has opted to leave GOP leadership ranks now that the party has lost control of the House.


Among Republicans, Boehner appeared to be fending off an aggressive challenge from Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, a leader of the party’s growing conservative wing. Boehner was elected to Congress in 1990 and was a protege of former Speaker Newt Gingrich when the Georgia Republican was storming the gates of the Democratic-held House. Boehner was part of Gingrich’s leadership team during the first four years of GOP House control but was purged along with Gingrich in the wake of the party’s disappointing performance in the 1998 elections.

“We need to start by rebuilding the Republican brand,” Boehner said. “Republicans need to get back to our core principles and rededicate ourselves to the reform mindset that put us in the majority 12 years ago.”

Pence says Republicans need to adopt a new, more aggressive attitude now that the party is entering the minority. He says the lure of power caused Republicans to drift away from principles such as curbing federal spending. “We did not just lose our majority … we lost our way,” Pence said in a Thursday speech to his colleagues. “We are in the wilderness because we walked away from the limited-government principles that minted the Republican Congress.”

The elevation of Boehner to the top post would come less than a year after he re-entered leadership ranks. Boehner defeated Blunt to succeed Tom DeLay, R-Texas, as majority leader.

Sadly, one suspects they would have chosen DeLay as Minority Leader if he were still available.

They have set a press conference for 8 am to make it official.

John O’Sullivan argues those of us in the clean slate camp are misguided. First, he argues, reasonably enough, that nobody really knows who Boehner and Blunt are:

Insofar as there is some strong need for a scapegoat to show the GOP’s repentance to the outside world, that need has now been met. Hastert’s departure fulfilled it well because a good many people knew who he was and what he did. That’s an important part of a scapegoat’s job description. Anonymous scapegoats simply don’t fit the bill. Faithful C-Span viewers may possibly be able to identify John Boehner more or less; but I doubt that one in ten Americans knows Roy Blunt’s name, let alone his features.

It’s certainly true that the only people who much care about this are the hard-core partisans. Still, the fact that two thirds of the existing leadership is being retained will be known, as would have been a clean sweep. The latter would have sent a not-so-subtle signal that the Republicans “get it” and are ready to, as Gingrich put it, “Clean House.”

O’Sullivan argues, too, that B&B are quite capable whereas the challengers, Pence and Shadegg, are unproven. Of Blunt, who has generated the most antipathy among conservative pundits, he writes,

A whip’s job is essentially a backroom one; he calculates the votes and ensures that the party obtains its objectives. Blunt has done that well. If you don’t like the GOP’s recent objectives — with one important exception, I don’t myself — then blame the party not the whip, the organ-grinder not the monkey, Hastert and Bush rather than Blunt.

The problem with this is that Blunt, especially, is deeply tied to the DeLay and Abramoff scandals. He is not just a face of the problem but a large part of it.

Boehner, frankly, is much cleaner. While he has resisted reform efforts and cast some votes that have given conservatives heartburn, his return to the Leadership was relatively recent and his blame much less than that deserved by Hastert and Blunt. Still, he was in fact the Majority Leader during the past several months, including the unfolding of the Foley scandal, and at best did nothing to help right the ship. Elevating such a first mate to captain simply strikes me as unwise.

UPDATE: Boehner’s election is official. No vote totals have been announced as of yet.

UPDATE: Mark Tapscott and the Examiner weigh in with an editorial entitled “GOP didn’t learn a Lott from ’06 defeat.”

UPDATE: AP story above updated to reflect that Blunt beat Shadegg. Again, no vote totals have been announced as of yet.

UPDATE: Tim Chapman is live blogging the event and has the vote totals as 168-27 for Boehner over Pence and 137-57 for Blunt over Shadegg.

Blunt’s press release continues the “we just don’t get it” meme that we’ve come to expect from him:

As a party, we learned some hard lessons last week. But our ideas didn’t lose — we did. Today begins the rebirth of House Republicans’ common sense agenda with a leadership team that is more unified than ever, ready to regain the trust of the American people, and ready to restore faith in our ideals.

But it’s the same leadership team that lost last week despite popular ideas? That lost the trust of the American people? Lost faith in conservative ideals? Hmmm.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Herb says:

    Some of these “So Called” Republicans never learn