John Boehner Fends Off Yet Another Quixotic Tea Party Challenge
In the end, the Tea Party challenge to John Boehner was a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
As expected, the challenge to John Boehner’s election as Speaker fell well short of anything approaching success notwithstanding much breathless anticipation from the political media and Tea Party groups:
Republicans took full control of Congress Tuesday for the first time in eight years, and John A. Boehner was reelected as House speaker, after a group of hard-right conservatives tried and failed to deny him another term.
Boehner’s election provided the only drama on a day of ceremony and swearings-in on Capitol Hill. But, in the end, even that drama didn’t last very long. His adversaries need to turn 30-plus other Republicans against Boehner to prevent him from winning a majority on the first vote.
They got 25 — 24 no votes and and one simply voting present. As a clerk called 408 members one by one, those rebellious Republicans shouted out a variety of names: GOP House members, even two sitting senators. But the other Republicans all called out Boehner’s name, and that was enough.
In the House, the group that had plotted a coup against Boehner had little hope of electing another Republican in the first round of voting. But they still hoped to humiliate him by splintering the votes so that no one won.
That would have sent the speaker’s election to a second round of voting, for the first time since the 1920s. It would also have sent the House into recess, so Republicans could retreat into their basement meeting room for an epic airing of grievances. Then — maybe — the plotters hoped that Boehner would take himself out of the running, in favor of a new GOP candidate.
“This is the result of a couple weeks of hard work,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), one of the plotters, said in an interview. He said that Boehner’s team was “whipping,” or cajoling uncertain allies, to defeat the coup attempt. Boehner defeated a similar effort in 2013. “The leadership is nervous, they’re whipping, and they know if they don’t, they’ll lose.”
In the end, their effort seemed to show how splintered the anti-Boehner forces were, instead. Some of their group voted for Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), others for Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), and others for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.). One cast a vote for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and an Alabama congressman voted for his home-state senator, Jeff Sessions (R).
In the end, the threshold that the insurgents needed to defeat Boehner ended up being larger because there were about a dozen Members of Congress who were not present for this afternoon’s vote. In at least one case, that was because Congressman Trey Gowdy’s flight got canceled due to today’s inclement weather in the District of Columbia. The majority of the missing members were members of the New York delegation and other top ranking Democrats who decided to forego today’s largely ceremonial vote to attend the funeral for former New York Governor Mario Cuomo in New York City. Additionally, prior to the vote, Congressman Michael Grimm, who had been convicted on tax evasion charges prior to Christmas, made his resignation official. As a result, the membership eligible to vote today was only 408, which basically meant that Boehner only needed to get 204 votes to be elected. No doubt, this cushion allowed some members to vote against him without having to worry about being the decisive vote that would send the Speakership vote to a second ballot for the first time since 1923. The number of people voting for someone other than Boehner was larger than it was two years ago, but the impact was largely the same, namely no impact at all.
Some observers will note, of course, that this is likely a sign that the Tea Party Caucus is likely to continue to be a thorn in the side of leadership over the next two years just as it has been over the past four years. Most immediately, it is likely to be a strong voice in favor of taking some kind of punitive step in response to the President’s executive action on immigration. However, as this vote demonstrates the additional votes that Speaker Boehner has been granted thanks to GOP victories last November and the possibility that he has much more maneuvering room than he did after the 2010 and 2012 elections. What impact that has on the agenda going forward, of course, remains to be seen. For the most part, though, it appears that the Tea Party rebellion against Boehner was much ado about nothing.