By David Lawder and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - John Boehner is expected to be re-elected as House of Representatives Speaker on Tuesday, but a vocal and growing pocket of conservative opposition could hamper his ability to pass difficult legislation this year.
Representative Steve King of Iowa and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana on Monday became the latest prominent conservatives to announce they would vote against Boehner for a third term as speaker.
Republican newcomer Dave Brat, a Tea Party favorite who defeated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary last year, also said he would vote against Boehner.
"While I like Speaker Boehner personally, he will not have my support for Speaker," Brat said in an opinion piece he wrote for the conservative news website Breitbart.com.
"Washington is broken in part because our party’s leadership has strayed from its own principles of free market, limited government, constitutional conservatism."
With the 114th Congress scheduled to convene on Tuesday, Louie Gohmert, a Texas representative aligned with the conservative Tea Party movement, has said he will run against Boehner for the leadership job. Representative Ted Yoho of Florida also said he might challenge Boehner, who has been speaker since the Republicans took a House majority in 2011.
Conservative House Republicans have criticized Boehner for not doing enough to stop President Barack Obama's initiatives, but the opposition has not reached a level that would block Boehner's re-election as speaker.
With the strongest Republican majority since 1947, Boehner can now afford to lose 28 Republican votes and still achieve the 218 majority necessary to become speaker.
Thus far, the number who have announced their opposition to Boehner has only approached the dozen Republicans who voted against him two years ago. However, the dissident conservative faction could be powerful enough to force Boehner to make concessions to them on key votes.
"This is a symptom of a larger problem facing the Republicans," said Paul Sracic, a political scientist at Youngstown State University in Ohio. "The speaker's going to have to walk a fine line if he wants to get things passed in the new Congress. It's a reminder that conservatives want to fight Obama."
The opposition to Boehner partly reflects conservative anger at the passage of a $1.1 trillion spending bill in December that failed to deny funding to Obama's immigration order lifting the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.
(Additional reporting by Bill Trott; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, John Whitesides and Andre Grenon)