There were reports
a couple of weeks ago that "several dozen frustrated House conservatives are scheming" behind the scenes, holding "discreet
" meetings about possibly trying to oust House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) before the start of the next Congress.
Conservatives are increasingly -- and not so quietly -- showing the early signs of a speakership revolt. But short of a sudden groundswell of opposition from the GOP rank and file, or a magic wand, Speaker John A. Boehner is the one who controls his fate. Just don't tell that to the Ohio Republican's foes. "I think pretty well everybody's figured Mr. Boehner's going to be gone, and the question is Cantor and McCarthy," said Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. "But most conservatives are saying it's not just at the top; it's all the way through." Huelskamp, who was more than an active player in the last Boehner coup, told CQ Roll Call there are "a lot of meetings going on" about who could be speaker in the 114th Congress, and if Boehner should decide to say, conservatives are discussing how to remove him.
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 not only helps rally the rank-and-file membership against extremists, but also becomes a convenient excuse for the GOP's complete failure to govern.
And for Democrats, the specter of Republican infighting is always welcome.
But at the risk of spoiling everyone's fun, I'd recommend taking all of the chatter with a grain of salt. Far-right lawmakers may very well want to oust Boehner and move the House Republican leadership even further off the right-wing cliff, but there's literally nothing to suggest they have the wherewithal to pull it off.
Indeed, they don't even have a plan. Robert Schlesinger recently compared it
to the House GOP's government-shutdown scheme.
The right wound itself up about Obamacare and then shuttered the government without a clear plan other than that Obama was going to inevitably fold in the face of their Keyzer Soze-like superior show of will. However it turned out, they were going to get something big out of the whole affair because they'd tried really, really hard.... How'd all that turn out? The tea party right's problem here is that they echo chamber themselves into badly overestimating their leverage and end up with little more than egg on their collective faces. See the paltry dozen votes they managed against Boehner last time, for example, or the outcome of the government shutdown. We'll see. Maybe the wingers really will be able to produce 50 anti-Boehner votes and shut down the House. Or maybe they're basting too long in their own tough and angry talk. Again.
This is not to say that the "discreet" meetings are imaginary. As best as I can tell, they're quite real -- Huelskamp and a small group of allies really are plotting, hoping to either force Boehner out, install an extremist within the leadership, or both.
But meetings do not a strategy make. The 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 intrigue may be entertaining on the Hill, but at least for now, it's hollow.