No, Boehner Isn’t Going To Lose His Job As Speaker

John Boehner's position as Speaker of the House seems quite secure.


Last night’s vote in the House Of Representatives to approve the deal brokered by Senators Reid and McConnell to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling ended up with a total of 285 in favor and 144 against, a fairly solid number of yes votes and actually more than I was expecting the measure to get in the end. Hidden inside those numbers, though, were signs of discontent in the Republican House Caucus. Of the yes votes, only 87 came from Republicans. Every single one of the no votes, meanwhile, all 144 of them, came from Republicans. This means that more than 62% of the Republicans who voted last night voted against the bill, while only 38% of the caucus voted for it. Had it not been for the votes of House Democrats never would have passed. This, of course, is only the latest time this year that Speaker Boehner has violated the so-called Hastert Rule, which states that Republican leadership should not bring a bill to the floor unless it has the support of a “majority of the majority.” Added to that is the fact that the final version of the bill was openly opposed by conservative groups such as Heritage Action, which actually “key voted” the bill, meaning that it would be using a yes vote on the bill against members in its “scoring” process. Most of the prominent members of the Tea Party Caucus voted against the measure, of course, but so did some members of Leadership such as Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

All of this, combined with the manner in which the GOP Caucus under cut Boehner’s efforts to put together a House version of the kind of deal that Reid and McConnell had been working on since the beginning of the week, has led to much speculation in the media about the political future of the Speaker of the House. As it turns out, though, Boehner’s position at the head of the House Republican Caucus not only doesn’t appear to be vulnerable at the moment, but it actually appears to have been strengthened:

House conservatives said Wednesday that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is in no danger of losing his post, despite presiding over a Republican defeat in the fight over government funding and the debt ceiling.

“I don’t think Speaker Boehner has anything to worry about right now,” said Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), a conservative who refused to vote for Boehner in January.

Speaking at an event with fellow conservatives, Labrador said he was “really proud” of Boehner’s handling of the fiscal crisis and that, over the last 2 1/2 weeks, “he has been the kind of Speaker I’ve been looking for for the last 2 1/2 years.”

Boehner acceded to conservative demands that the House Republicans press a shutdown fight over the 2010 healthcare law, but those same members repeatedly opposed his proposals to raise the debt ceiling in the last month. The battle culminated Wednesday night when the Speaker scrapped a final plan to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling because he didn’t have sufficient Republican support.

The representative leading the ObamaCare defunding fight in the House said Wednesday that nobody “questions (Boehner’s) leadership.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told The Hill, “Conservatives feel like he’s fought the good fight. … You can quote me on that.”

The House is now expected to accept a Senate agreement, but the bill could pass without the support of a majority of Republicans.

Other conservatives confirmed that they expected no attempt to oust Boehner.

“There is absolutely no talk of anything along those lines. No talk,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee who frequently opposes leadership proposals.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) said Boehner had enhanced his standing in the last month and predicted that conservative clout would not diminish in the fallout from the shutdown fight.

“I have been so pleased and proud of John Boehner during the course of the last month that I have renewed confidence that conservatives will have an opportunity to influence what happens in our conference,” Lummis said.

National Review’s Jonathan Strong reports similar sentiment from House conservatives that he’s talked to as do Caitlan Huey-Burns at RealClearPolitics and Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post.  There’s perhaps no better indication of the extent to which House conservatives appear to not holding things against Boehner is the reception he got at the final House GOP meeting before last night’s vote:

At the last GOP conference meeting of the two-week government shutdown, no lawmakers went to the microphones to give their take.

Instead, after Speaker John Boehner told Republicans they had “fought the good fight,” they all rose up to offer a standing ovation. “It was one of the easiest meetings we’ve ever had,” says Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.

“I think he  has strengthened his position in leadership,” Representative John Fleming says about Boehner. “He hung in there with us. He’s been reluctant to go to these fights and now that we have stood up and fought for our values and he’s been there with us, leading, I think his stock has risen tremendously. He has great security as our leader and our speaker.”

In the end, this isn’t really all that surprising. Whether because he agrees with them or, more likely, to preserve his own position with the leadership, Boehner spent the better part of the past week doing his best to demonstrate to his colleagues on the right side of the GOP Caucus that he was going along with what they wanted. Even though he had said several times during the summer that the “Defund Obamacare” movement was making a mistake by trying to tie the Affordable Care Act to the Federal Budget, in the end he and the rest of the leadership pushed forward three separate Continuing Resolutions that sought to defund, delay, or modify the law in some way or another, all of which they had to know would be rejected by the Senate and the President. After the shutdown happened, he let the GOP push forward with a similarly doomed effort to provide piecemeal funding for various parts of the Federal Government while publicly going forward with an effort to try to force the President and the Senate Democrats to the bargaining table. It was only when the polls started turning massively negative for the GOP and the debt ceiling deadline came closer and closer, that Boehner began to show signs that he was willing to split from GOP talking points to get the job done. For all intents and purposes, House conservatives really had nothing to complain about when it came to Boehner throughout this entire ordeal. He pretty much did everything possible to pursue their goals, even when it was apparent that he didn’t think they were proceeding in a wise. or productive matter. Viewed from the outside, Boehner perhaps deserves some criticism for his partisanship, but that’s the nature of politics and it would’ve been foolish to expect him, or any other Speaker, to act against the wishes of his caucus. Instead, he did what they asked of him until they had finally learned the lesson that their strategy had failed. Then, he let most of them vote against a bill that absolutely needed to pass so that they could preserve their own political futures. Who could ask for anything more?

The other factor that makes a real challenge against Boehner virtually unlikely is the fact that there doesn’t appear to be anyone to take his place that the hard line conservatives would find acceptable. Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy have somewhat better relationships with that group that Boehner does, but they’re still part of leadership and have largely been Boehner loyalists throughout all of this, both of them voted for the bill last night for example. Paul Ryan is a name that has been mentioned but he’s expressed no real interest in being part of leadership, instead focusing on his Chairmanship of the Budget Committee. Additionally, Ryan’s own record in the House is arguably closer to Boehner’s than the Tea Party’s so it’s unclear that they’d be any happier with him. Looking at the Caucus itself, it’s mostly made up of people who haven’t been in Congress very long and/or don’t have the kind of relationships with other members of the caucus that would make it possible for them to even mount a serious bid to challenge Boehner. Finally, given the difficulties that Boehner has had throughout his tenure with a caucus whose loyalty is clearly focused outside the beltway, one wonders if anyone in the House GOP would want the job other than him.

So, despite the fact that John Boehner let a bill pass through Congress that is highly unpopular with a very vocal wing of his party, there really doesn’t appear to be any damage done to his position as Speaker. Indeed, to the extent that conservatives now see him as they guy who went to the mat for them, he’s probably strengthened his position, and that’s something that may help him in the battles to come.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Instead, after Speaker John Boehner told Republicans they had “fought the good fight,” they all rose up to offer a standing ovation.

    The Guardian had an entirely different take on that meeting:

    By 3pm, Boehner hosted a short meeting with forlorn-looking Republicans in the House. Sources inside the meeting said he told his colleagues they had lost the fight, and was then given a tepid applause. (my em)

    (I knew I read this somewhere this morn) Now, the National Review wouldn’t try to spin this, would they? And Yeah, I checked, it was not written by Robert Costa, rather it was written by Johnathon Strong. I don’t read NR often and have no knowing track record at all with Strong, but I have been introduced to Costa the past 2 weeks and impressed at that.

    Either way, Boehner is not under threat for now. Maybe he will get primaried, tho I think that would be the ultimate stupidity. As you said Doug, he gave the TPers all they could ask for.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    As near as I can figure out, the last two weeks was largely Kabuki theater designed to allow Boehner to say he’d fought as hard as he could but was forced to give up. Obama and Reid saved Boehner’s cushy job. Suppose he’ll show any gratitude?

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: You forgot McConnell. His ass really is on the firing line for it too.

  4. James Pearce says:

    Indeed, to the extent that conservatives now see him as they guy who went to the mat for them,

    I doubt they’re even telling themselves that in private.

    They see Boehner as pliable and weak. He won’t challenge them or stand in their way and he’ll do any damn fool thing they ask him to do. Why would they want anyone else?

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Of course they won’t dump Boehner. Where else would they find such a talented “bottom?”

  6. C. Clavin says:

    You need to stop referring to House Republicans as Conservative, Pumpkin.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    Reynolds wins the thread….

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Michelle Bachmann…who makes $175K a year from the Government…as well as collecting Farm Subsidies…and Medicare payments to her husbands pray-the-gay-away practice…calls the re-opening of the Government;

    “a very sad day.”

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Didn’t forget McConnell. Didn’t care.

  10. wr says:

    @gVOR08: “As near as I can figure out, the last two weeks was largely Kabuki theater designed to allow Boehner to say he’d fought as hard as he could but was forced to give up. ”

    And of course, those strict fiscal watchdogs who are so concerned about the national debt that they want to eliminate food stamps for poor people stand up to cheer the waste of billions of dollars on a government shutdown whose sole purpose was to show just how many Tea Party asses Boehner was willing to kiss.

    If there’s ever been a bigger fraud than the Tea Party, I can’t imagine what it was…

  11. gVOR08 says:

    @wr: Agree, except that Republicans were preaching about balanced budgets while running up deficits long before anyone had heard of the Tea Party. They’re all fiscal frauds. The TP are just louder.

  12. stonetools says:

    I’m hoping that Boehner WILL lose his job as speaker… to Nancy Pelosi next November.

  13. Woody says:

    Never surprised that Mr Mataconis can put together a strong case.

    The only way Boehner is toppled is if he somehow becomes the poster-child for the failed shutdown. And with Senator Cruz there (with his rather bloody knife – and a Senator meddling with the House, no less), there’s no chance of that . . .

    Unless, of course, the GOP loses the House in 2014. However, I’d bet against that happening.

    I’m not anywhere near the Speaker’s politics. However, I did appreciate his timing on the announcement that he would not countenance default.

  14. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares whether Boehner keeps his job or not. Boehner is irrelevant to politics or governance in the U.S. When the current CR runs out in January, I am sure that the Democrats will once again get everything they want and Boehner will once again fail to deliver anything for the Republicans.

    Image what kind of negotiations that are going to occur between now and January with the Democrats knowing they can get anything they want and the Repubicans knowing that they can deliver nothing.

    I suspect in a few years that political scientist will view Oct 2013 as the real beginning of the one party state in the U.S. since the Repubicans are irrelevant to governance or policy or politics in the U.S.

  15. David M says:


    Explain to me how the sequester level spending in the CR is the Democrats getting everything they want?

  16. superdestroyer says:

    @David M:

    If the president says to end the Sequester, the Republicans will agree. McConnell has shown that the establishment Republicans believe that they are in a rump party, that the Democrats will dominate in the future, and the only thing for Republican legislators to do is to get earmarks and pork for their district. Do you really think any Republican initiative is going to survive in the future?

  17. David M says:


    If the president says to end the Sequester, the Republicans will agree.

    That’s just nonsense. Your one party ravings are loony, but somehow you topped your previous level of crazy.

    Besides, you actually avoided the question again. I wonder why you won’t address the actual issue, but keep coming up with ways to change the subject.

    Simply put, how is the sequester level funding in the CR the Democrats getting everything they want?

  18. john personna says:

    While I think Doug’s analysis is fine as far as it goes, it leaves out a great deal.

    Specifically, a great swath of the nation knows that Boehner did not “fight the good fight” for the extreme right. He “fought the dumb fight” for them.

    In fact, I’m afraid your article reads as a bit of image repair, doesn’t it?

    “Ah well, it was just politics, and a good fight?”

  19. john personna says:


    Who cares whether Boehner keeps his job or not. Boehner is irrelevant to politics or governance in the U.S.

    For a few days that one man held the power to force the United States of America into default.

  20. Rob in CT says:

    If the president says to end the Sequester, the Republicans will agree




    I WISH.

  21. superdestroyer says:

    @john personna:

    And after all of the supposed drama, the Democrats got what they wanted and the Republicans are blamed for everything. Does anyhone really believe that the Republicans will challenge the President and Sen Reid again. The Republicans will either pass a budget that gives the Democrats what they want or approve a full year CR that will give the Democrats everything they want.

    Does anyone believe that the Democrats will give the Republican anything in the upcoming budget negotiations. In reality, politics from now on will operate as if the Republicans do not even exist. The Democrats will get the spending authority they want, the borrowing authority they want, and soon taxes will be going up again with the promise of future spending cuts that will never occur.

    Politics would be easier if the Republicans just went home today because then at least we would not have to pay their irrelevant staffs.

  22. An Interested Party says:

    And after all of the supposed drama, the Democrats got what they wanted and the Republicans are blamed for everything.

    If Democrats really got what they wanted, we would already have a single-payer healthcare system and many of the sequester cuts would not be in place…as for the Republicans, they should be blamed for everything as they were the ones behind this ridiculous debacle…

    Does anyhone really believe that the Republicans will challenge the President and Sen Reid again.

    You obviously have no understanding of fanatics, which is odd considering your views…

  23. superdestroyer says:

    @An Interested Party:

    the fanatics are been run off with their tails between their legs. There is nothing for the Republicans to negotiate over. The Republicans either give the Democrats everything they want or the Republicans will be blamed for everything. There is nothing left for the Republicans to do. The Republicans have zero influence on policy or governance. There is no prospect for the Republicans increasing their influence in the future.

    I suspect the cheap labor Republicans will push through comprehensive immigration reform through as a gift for the big money donors knowing that conservative have zero prospects for inlfuencing anythng in the future so why not pay off a few friends now.

  24. C. Clavin says:

    David M. to Super-Dooper:

    Explain to me how the sequester level spending in the CR is the Democrats getting everything they want?

    Super-Dooper to David M.:

    If the president says to end the Sequester, the Republicans will agree.

    I mean…there you have the entire debacle in a nutshell…one of our political parties is dominated by stark-raving madness. We cannot have a discussion on the merits because they refuse to accept facts for what they are. Republicans have a lot more to do with this debt than Democrats. Two un-paid-for wars, un-paid-for Medicare Part D, un-paid-for Bush Tax Cuts…all of these are continuing obligations that are the biggest drivers of the deficit which continues to grow the debt. Yet Republicans don’t want to pay the bills now that they have come due…and seem to really believe that paying those debts amounts to Republicans giving Democrats everything they want. Lunacy. Total f’ing lunacy.
    It’s all f’ing nonsense…and paying attention to these loonies is damaging the Republic. And now they are just going to move farther to the extreme and become more insane do more damage. It’s only going to get worse my friends…unless we stop paying attention to the nonsense.

  25. Laurence Bachmann says:

    Could we retire references to the “violating the Hastert Rule”, please? Each speaker has different rules and standards by which they manage their caucus and this one is under no obligation to observe another. Clearly the Republican clowns can’t punish him for ignoring their wishes, so why the constant reference to a rule that is not observed and whose non-observance inflicts no penalty? Dennie Hastert’s rules are no more applicable to Boehner than Joe Cannon’s.

  26. al-Ameda says:

    Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told The Hill, “Conservatives feel like he’s fought the good fight. … You can quote me on that.”

    In other words, “he would have lost his job if he didn’t let us screw things up.”

  27. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    He’s safe only because no one else wants the job.

  28. john personna says:

    Tea Party brinkmanship took a hammering. Boehner more or less rode the tiger. He was there before, and after, and I’d say now with more power.

    When he, and other “Washington Insiders” say “don’t be stupid,” the Teas might listen.

    It has been proven in fairly forceful fashion that when your bluff fails you can’t win with a poor hand.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    The Republicans have zero influence on policy or governance.

    What a crock of sh!t…if that were really true, tax rates would go up on the wealthy, climate change legislation would be in place, and government stimulus would be widespread, among many other things…it would take someone who is fanatical or delusional or both to believe what you wrote…

  30. superdestroyer says:

    @An Interested Party:

    At a time when greenhouse gas emissions by the U.S. are going down, coal fired plants are being closed, and it is impossible to build a pipeline in the U.S. do you really believe that the Democrats are not getting what they want on environmental issues.

    The Democrats problem with environmental issues is that their push for comprehensive immigration reform goes against their stated desire to protect the environment. When pushed, the Democrats have chosen cheap labor and more automatic Democratic Party voters over protecting the environment.

    Also, at a time when the annual budget deificits are been at or above $1 trillion dollars, it is hard to argue that the government is not stimulating the economy. What is odd is how many progressives fail to understand that raising taxes would work against stimulating the economy. I think the Democrats are waiting for an improving economy before they raise taxes.