Boehner takes revenge, Foes find themselves losing plum committee posts. After he secured his third term as speaker Tuesday afternoon, losing 25 votes on the House floor to some relatively unknown members of the Republican Conference, Boehner moved swiftly to boot two of the insurgents from the influential Rules Committee. That could be just the start of payback for the speaker’s betrayers, who might see subcommittee chairmanships and other perks fall away in the coming months.
Boehner’s allies have thirsted for this kind of action from the speaker, saying he’s let people walk all over him for too long and is too nice to people who are eager to stab him in the back. The removal of Florida Reps. Daniel Webster and Richard Nugent from Rules was meant as a clear demonstration that what Boehner and other party leaders accepted during the previous Congress is no longer acceptable, not with the House’s biggest GOP majority in decades.
The reason for demoting the two Florida Republicans was simple: Webster ran against Boehner for speaker, distributing fliers outlining his candidacy and talking about how he would better adhere to the House rules than the Ohio Republican. Nugent supported his fellow Floridian in the quixotic endeavor, which garnered the support of 12 lawmakers. Webster didn’t even give Boehner a heads-up that he was running, although leadership was aware early Tuesday morning that it could happen.
The House Republican leadership is carefully reviewing the list of members who voted against the speaker and those who opposed a procedural motion in December on the so-called “crominibus,” the $1.1 trillion spending package to keep the government open through to September. Top Republican sources suggested that the process could take months to unfold.
The rebels don’t think they deserve anything other than respect from the leadership and their colleagues, and none suggested they were sorry about publicly seeking to oust Boehner. “I am already hearing from my colleagues, and myself, about retaliation against those who voted their conscience, their constituents, their principles, to change the status quo,” Huelskamp said. “My colleagues fully expect that. That’s what they expect out of this leadership team.” Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King, who voted against Boehner, said, “If you cannot vote your conscience … then it’s clearly a dysfunctional system here.”
Boehner and his team are convinced that, despite 25 defections, they have a firmer grip on power than ever. They say their “working majority” — members whom Boehner can work with — is around 220 members. “We don’t need these fringe guys as much as we did anymore,” said a GOP leadership aide, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We can let them walk on certain bills, and it just won’t matter. That gives us breathing room.”