In theory, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a lot to be happy about. As the new Congress is poised to get underway, the Ohio lawmaker will lead the largest House Republican conference in generations, giving the Speaker newfound leeway.
Actually, Boehner hasn’t had it easy lately. For example, his massive conference will shrink by one today after Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) resigns following a recent felony conviction. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), meanwhile, became the subject of controversy after the public learned of his attendance at a white-supremacist event in 2002.
And if that weren’t enough, Boehner learned over the weekend he won’t be the only Republican running for Speaker when members vote tomorrow. The Washington Post reported:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) said Sunday that he would challenge Speaker John A. Boehner for the top job in the House, becoming the second long-shot tea party House member in as many days to offer himself as an alternative to the Ohio Republican. […]Gohmert’s announcement came a day after Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) floated himself as a potential candidate for speaker.
The Heritage Foundation claimed over the weekend that “several Republicans are also weighing a run” for Speaker, though there’s little independent evidence to support this.
In a statement yesterday, FreedomWorks, another far-right activist group, said “there is an urgent need replace Speaker Boehner with fresh, bold leadership that better represents the views of the whole caucus,” but the group has not yet thrown its support to Gohmert, Yoho, or someone else entirely.
All the while, a handful of far-right House members have already announced their intention to vote against Boehner, though this anti-Boehner contingent has not yet rallied behind one standard bearer.
So what happens now?
Chances are, very little. The House will convene tomorrow for the first working day of the 114th Congress, and House members will vote soon after to elect a Speaker. The intra-party drama offers some entertainment, but Boehner remains the overwhelming favorite to win another term.
Why? For one thing, arithmetic is on his side – the GOP conference is so large, up to 27 House Republicans can betray Boehner and he’d still win another term. One anti-Boehner Republican recently said there are 18 GOP lawmakers ready to vote against him, and even if that’s true, it’s obviously not close to being enough.
For another, if the Speaker is going to face a genuine threat, his Republican opponents would need a real, credible challenger from within the party. Neither Gohmert nor Yoho, both of whom are generally seen as clownish figures on Capitol Hill, fit the bill.
Boehner and his top lieutenants have been quietly preparing for this election for months, and it’s safe to assume they’ll spend today securing the necessary support. If, by this afternoon, the current GOP leadership is seen in a panic, Boehner may not have the votes he needs, but if I’m Gohmert or Yoho, I’d start lowering expectations now.
For more on this, Steve Kornacki had a good segment on the drama yesterday: