Republican North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones says he and a group of 16 to 18 Republicans plan to challenge John Boehner during the next election to be Speaker of the House. "Right now, I've been meeting with a small group, and we -- about 16, 18 -- and we're hoping to have a name of a sitting member of Congress that we can call out their name," Jones said on the North Carolina-based Talk of the Town radio program.
It seems like every six months or so, there's a new round of chatter about House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) facing a threat from within his own ranks. The last flurry was in April, when there were widespread reports about conservative Republican lawmakers "showing the early signs of a speakership revolt."
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), one of the Speaker's fiercest foes, said at the time, "I think pretty well everybody's figured Mr. Boehner's going to be gone."
In reality, he's really not "going to be gone," though Andrew Kaczynski reported yesterday on the latest scuttlebutt from Boehner's intra-party critics.
Though Jones wasn't specific, the North Carolina Republican claims he's met with "one individual" who might be willing to challenge Boehner for the Speaker's gavel. "We're gonna have a conference call the week after Christmas with our little group to see where we are," Jones added.
I think we already know where they are: in a position to lose a fight that serves no purpose.
Some of you are probably thinking, "Wait, wasn't this already resolved last month?" It's true that the week after the midterm elections, House Republicans re-elected the current GOP leadership team during a closed-door election, and the Speaker faced no challenger.
That, however, was effectively the nominating phase of the process, and the new Congress will have to formally choose its leaders in January.
At which point, Boehner will prevail, and this new round of chatter, like the previous rounds of chatter, will amount to nothing.
Even if we assume Walter Jones is correct and there are 18 House Republicans prepared to rally behind a Boehner rival who has not yet come forward, the new GOP caucus will have a whopping 247 members. In a Speaker's election, even if 18 Republicans broke ranks, that wouldn't come close to defeating Boehner -- and for the record, I seriously doubt the total will reach 18.
As we talked about in April, the dirty little secret is that just about everyone on Capitol Hill sees value in this scuttlebutt. For right-wing members, chatter about their efforts to choose new House GOP leaders makes them feel important. For the Republican establishment, the gossip helps rally the rank-and-file membership against extremists. For Democrats, the specter of Republican infighting is always welcome.
But reality is stubborn. The GOP mutineers have no powerful allies; they lack the numbers needed to execute a coup; and they have no plan short of, "Let's figure something out."
The Republican leadership occasionally expresses concern about a possible intra-party betrayal, but Boehner's job security is not in doubt. The leadership race is over before it starts.