WASHINGTON – Two Republican lawmakers have stepped forward to challenge House Speaker John Boehner’s campaign for a third term as top dog in the lower chamber, raising the specter of an extended selection procedure that could muddy the selection process.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a Tea Party Republican who has been a consistent pain in Boehner’s side, announced Sunday that he will challenge Boehner, declaring that the election “is not about a particular candidate — it is about whether we keep the status quo or make the change the country demands.”
Gohmert’s announcement follows on the heels of the declaration by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) that he would not support Boehner and would consider having his name placed in nomination as an alternative.
At least two other GOP lawmakers, Rep. Tom Massie of Kentucky and Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, have announced their intention to vote for someone other than Boehner when the election to choose a new House speaker is conducted on Tuesday, just as they did in 2013.
“With a process this broken, is it any wonder that Washington no longer works for the people?” Massie said. “My constituents expect better and America deserves better. On Jan. 6, 2015, I will vote for a new Speaker who will consistently articulate a constitutional vision for America and facilitate an inclusive and orderly legislative process that allows Congress to truly reflect the will of the people.”
The Gohmert and Yoho announcements, plus rumors that another candidate may enter the race, complicate the situation for Boehner, who has never been embraced by the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party. Yet it appears he ultimately will stave off any challenge and continue as House leader.
But it won’t be easy and the contest could further reveal divisions within the GOP caucus, which will enjoy a 246-188 advantage over minority Democrats, who are expected to nominate House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, for the speakership.
Whoever wins the speakership must attract a majority in the chamber – 218 votes. If no candidate reaches that level on the first round, the vote proceeds to a second and additional rounds until one candidate claims the majority. If Gohmert, Yoho and whoever else might enter the campaign can siphon off 29 Republican votes, they can at least force a second round, a development that would at least display a growing dissatisfaction with Boehner’s leadership.
A briefing sheet released by Heritage Action, an arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, noted that delays in choosing a speaker have occurred before. In 1923 the GOP’s progressive wing blocked a Republican from becoming speaker until some of their procedural demands were met.That consumed three days and nine ballots. It took more than 19 days and 59 ballots to select a speaker in 1849, and more than 129 ballots were required in 1856.
The right-wing faction within the GOP caucus has been grumbling for weeks about several of Boehner’s decisions and tactics. Gohmert and others have publicly complained that the speaker hasn’t done enough to counterman an executive order issued by President Obama that permits about five million undocumented immigrants within the nation’s borders to remain without fear of deportation for at least the next two years.
They further maintain Boehner hasn’t done enough to repeal Obamacare, the law that requires everyone to obtain some form of health insurance. Adding to the list of grievances was the vote on the $1.1 trillion “CRomnibus,” a continuing resolution and omnibus spending bill that will keep the government operating through October, except for the Department of Homeland Security which was only funded through next month. Conservatives insist the GOP leadership failed to win sufficient concessions from the Obama administration in the legislation.
“After the November elections gave Republicans control of the Senate, voters made clear they wanted change,” Gohmert said. “There have been numerous examples of problematic Republican leadership but we were hopeful our leaders got the voters’ message. However, after our Speaker forced through the CRomnibus by passing it with Democratic votes and without time to read it, it seemed clear that we needed new leadership.”
Added Yoho, who is set to begin his second term in the House: “This is not a personal attack against Mr. Boehner, however, the people desire and deserve a choice. In November, they resoundingly rejected the status quo.”
The Republican Party’s right wing has been agitating for a change in leadership for some time. Matt Kibbe, president of Freedomworks, a leading Tea Party organization, said there exists “an urgent need replace Speaker Boehner with fresh, bold leadership that better represents the views of the whole caucus.”
Kibbe said Freedomworks plans to mobilize almost seven million grassroots activists and urge them to contact their representatives in the House before the vote.
“Speaker Boehner has kicked fiscal conservatives off committee positions for voting against his wishes, caved on numerous massive spending bills at the eleventh hour, and abused the legislative process to stomp out opposition by holding surprise votes and giving members little time to actually read the bills before they vote,” Kibbe said. “An effective Speaker would be someone who leads through action, consistently doing what Republicans promised the American people they would do. We need someone willing to shake up the status quo.”
Some conservatives, led by radio talk show host Sean Hannity, are actively working to draft Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) for the post. Gowdy, who is leading a special panel investigating the attack on the consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, has announced he’s not interested in seeking the post but the effort continues. The Tea Party Leadership Fund is getting behind the draft movement.
Boehner has in the past faced only token opposition from Republicans in his pursuit of the speakership. In 2013, he received 50.8 percent of the vote as opposed to Pelosi’s 44.3 percent. Five other Republicans, not all lawmakers, received votes, led by former House Republican Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who pocketed only three.
One of those votes for Cantor came from Yoho.
All of the Republicans who have announced they won’t support Boehner this time around are among the dozen who unsuccessfully tried to oust him two years ago. Three of those 12 GOPs voting against Boehner – from Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) and Walt Jones (R-N.C.) – had been recently stripped of their plum committee assignments by the speaker.
Gohmert voted for former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) back then. West lost his House seat the previous November.
The dozen who stood against Boehner then would have to pluck supporters from among the freshman House Republicans in the 114th Congress, among which a strong Tea Party wave hasn’t been detected. National Journal called this Congress the “rise of the Republican pragmatists,” noting that the new crop of GOP members gives Boehner even more “wiggle room” to withstand defections to the right flank of Gohmert and Yoho.
Tea Party favorite Mia Love, of Utah, stood behind another member of House leadership, Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), on ABC Sunday morning. Scalise has been under fire for speaking before white supremacists in 2002.
“These groups are awful. And the last thing I want to do is give them any sort of publicity or credibility and I can say, as far as I’m concerned, with Representative Scalise, he has been absolutely wonderful to work with. He’s been very helpful for me and he has had the support of his colleagues,” Love said.
“I believe he should remain in leadership. There’s one quality that he has that I think is very important in leadership and that’s humility. And he’s actually shown that in this case. And he’s apologized and I think that we need to move on and get the work of the American people done.”
While Love hasn’t announced her stance on Boehner, the Speaker has fundraised for her.
Boehner has not commented on the recent turn of events.