Things have been a tad...uncomfortable in House Republicanville over the last few weeks, and yesterday's "deal" only exacerbated the tension. With the 113th Congress set to take the reins tomorrow, the lower chamber's GOP conference will reportedly gather this evening to discuss their leadership situation. Depending on who you believe, either Boehner is calmly assured that he has the votes to be re-elected as Speaker...
An aide to House Speaker John Boehner tells National Review Online that the Ohio Republican is “confident” that he’ll win Thursday’s leadership election. “The speaker constantly keeps in touch with members,” the aide explains. “They know him, he listens to them, and he expects to have their support tomorrow.” Boehner’s senior team is also unaware of any potential challenge, even though there have been rumors of a backbench rebellion. “Members are united behind the speaker,” the aide says. “They know that he has worked hard to represent their interests in the recent negotiations.”
...or he's preparing to resign:
GOP caucusing from 5-7 pm tonight. Topic: Future of House GOP leadership. Hear Boehner may resign there.— Matthew Boyle (@mboyle1) January 2, 2013
There’s no Speaker until someone has a majority of votes from the entire House, so if 17 Republicans flatly refuse to vote for Boehner then he’ll be effectively blocked — unless a few Democrats decide to cross the aisle to get to 218. Could that happen? Dave Weigel says nope but I’m not sure. There’s no conceivable way that a Democrat gets elected tomorrow, so if you’re a tea-party-hating liberal backbencher, why not use your vote to spite conservatives instead? The Dems could sit back and let the drama play out for a few rounds: On the first ballot Boehner gets a heavy plurality of the GOP caucus but is blocked from a majority, on the second ballot a conservative challenger (Cantor or Jordan) pulls even but Boehner loyalists refuse to back down, on the third ballot a compromise candidate (Ryan?) enters the fray and the vote splits three ways. Then Democrats could swoop in and humiliate their enemies by voting en masse for Boehner. Not only would it deepen the fracture in the Republican caucus that Obama’s worked so hard to cause — imagine a GOP majority having to serve under a Speaker whom they knew was elected by the other side — but Democrats could spin it as a show of bipartisanship for the media. Depending upon how badly Boehner wants to keep the job, they might even be able to extract some concessions from him. Imagine this guy having to negotiate with Obama on the debt ceiling and the sequester knowing that he’s in that position chiefly because of Democratic support. Just one problem with this goofy yet fun hypothetical: Would Boehner or any other Republican agree to be Speaker without the backing of a majority of his own caucus? The job would be even more terrible and thankless than it is now.
If Boehner is forced out -- or leaves on his own volition -- one would assume that Eric Cantor would be at the front of the line for the Speakership, right? He's the majority leader as it is, plus he's ingratiated himself with the party's right flank by playing the "bad cop" with Obama during last summer's debt fight, and by publicly and vocally breaking with Boehner over the just-passed fiscal cliff deal. Paul Ryan's name gets tossed around in this discussion, but what possible motive does he have for entering this messy fray? He's a policy and numbers wonk at heart; not an arm-twisting, do-what-it-takes pol -- which is what Speakers sometimes need to be, for better or worse. Also, if Ryan does harbor some larger ambitions, cloaking himself in the stench of two years' worth of brutal deal-making with the Obama/Reid juggernaut (and serving as the GOP face of numerous rancorous fights) would render him severely wounded heading into 2016. Marco Rubio's prospective supporters might want to think about printing up "Ryan for Speaker" signs, asap. In any case, this high drama will come to a head very soon. Check back for updates...
UPDATE - Boehner's office throws cold water on the resignation rumor:
Boehner is not resigning tonight. His office says its made up.— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) January 2, 2013
UPDATE II - But what's this about, then?
UPDATE III - Interesting point from Bob Costa:
If Cantor or McCarthy had made a floor speech on Tues anti-deal, you could argue they'd be factors in election tmw. They didn't.— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) January 2, 2013
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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