A week from today, things just might get real for the TanMan, Weeper of the House John Boehner, as he needs to pass a “clean” continuing resolution to keep the government running on October 1.
The mutineers of the GOP House Freedom Caucus, who have taken their captain hostage, have pledged not to vote for any funding bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood. Without their 30+ votes, the Tan Man needs to violate the so-called “Hastert Rule” — the majority of the majority party (GOP) support in order to advance a bill — and cobble together a bipartisan majority with Tea-Publicans who do not want to shut down the government and the Democrats, which gives Nancy Pelosi some leverage. Oh, the horrors!
This may be the trigger for Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) of the GOP House Freedom Caucus to bring up his resolution to force a vote on vacating the Speakership. Boehner coup talk has House GOP on edge:
Growing chatter about a possible coup against Speaker John Boehner has set Capitol Hill on edge.
Talk that conservatives might use a government-funding showdown to overthrow the powerful Ohio Republican has triggered a flurry of behind-the-scenes jockeying among lawmakers eager to move up the leadership ladder.
And that has lawmakers wondering more than ever if Boehner’s days as Speaker are numbered.
“That’s what tells you there’s something afoot. You know there’s some drops of blood in the water, because all the sharks are starting to circle,” said one conservative lawmaker who backs Boehner’s ouster.
Conservatives have threatened to shut down the government on Oct. 1 if Congress doesn’t strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood. Boehner thinks a shutdown would be disastrous for the party in an election year, but he also knows conservatives have vowed to move against him if he teams up with Democrats to fund the government.
Publicly, Boehner is projecting confidence, repeatedly telling reporters in recent weeks he has “widespread support” from his GOP conference. But even behind closed doors, Boehner has had to contend with nagging questions about his political future.
At a private fundraiser for a GOP lawmaker last week, a donor asked Boehner whether he was worried about a possible conservative insurrection.
“Look, this group of guys is not going to knock me off my stride,” Boehner replied, according to a source in the room.
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A number of Boehner’s close friends and allies have dismissed the coup talk as overblown, insisting he has a firm grip on his conference. Neither they nor anyone they’ve talked to have received phone calls from GOP colleagues seeking support for an imminent leadership race, the allies added.
Rep. Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.) predicted Boehner would “win easily” if a floor vote were called to remove the Speaker in the middle of his third two-year term.
And House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who is part of Boehner’s close-knit circle, attempted to turn the tables on members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, denouncing them as “right-wing Marxists” who have empowered House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) by undermining Boehner.
“The right-wing Marxists have teamed up with Pelosi. They’re the ones who always team up with Pelosi. They are the Pelosi Republicans,” an infuriated Nunes said in an interview. “The Freedom Caucus is an arm of Pelosi.”
Wow, that is completely nonsensical. Nunes is unhinged and speaking gibberish. Still, he’s looking at you Rep. Matt Salmon, co-founder of the GOP House Freedom Caucus. He just called you a right-wing Marxist, are you going to let him get away with that?
But the reality is that Boehner may need to rely on Pelosi in some capacity if conservatives do bring forward a motion to “vacate” the Speaker’s chair — a procedural move to effectively boot Boehner out of power.
Pelosi is playing coy about how Democrats might respond to such a motion. All 188 Democrats could team up with roughly 30 Freedom Caucus members to overthrow Boehner and send the House into chaos. But that alliance seems unlikely since Democrats are worried about the prospects of a Tea Party Speaker who could emerge from the dust.
A handful of Democrats already went on record this year, saying they would vote to save Boehner, preferring to stick with the devil they know. And other Democrats told CNN this week they were inclined to ride to Boehner’s rescue, even as Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) warned that Boehner shouldn’t count on Democrats to bail him out.
If all 188 Democrats banded together and simply voted “present” on the motion to oust Boehner, the incumbent Speaker would easily win a majority of his 247-member GOP conference. He would just needs 124 votes, or more than half of the GOP lawmakers voting that particular day.
But striking such a deal with Democrats would further infuriate the right, making it even more difficult for Boehner to bring along conservatives on a host of fiscal issues he’ll have to confront this year, including raising the debt ceiling, a fight over budget caps and extending highway funding.
Conservatives say Boehner would be committing political suicide if he relies on Pelosi to save his hide.
Such a move would expose his weakness and ruin his credibility within the GOP conference, they say, putting him in an even worse standing with the far right than he is today.
“If the votes called to vacate the chair, then I see Boehner resigning,” the conservative lawmaker said of a possible floor vote to remove the Speaker. “He could go cut a deal with Pelosi, but would you really want to govern after that, knowing that Democrats saved your bacon?
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After The Hill reported last week that some conservatives had begun reaching out to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as a potential successor to Boehner, McCarthy, along with Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), all were forced to put out statements of support for Boehner.
“The more we get emails about how Cathy McMorris Rodgers or Paul Ryan or McCarthy support the Speaker, the more likely it seems the Speaker is not going to survive,” quipped a second member of the Freedom Caucus.
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All of the activity is raising questions about what will happen next. And it appears many members of the House GOP conference aren’t so sure themselves.
“Uncertainty creates action in the world of politics. There may be some level of jockeying based on people not having certainty about what comes next,” explained Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.).
“In the absence of any certainty, they don’t want to find themselves 10 yards back from the starting line.”
House Democratic leaders are warning Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and his Republicans that they’re on their own to iron out internal strife.
“It’s not our responsibility to try to solve their divisions,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Hoyer, the minority whip, said Democratic leaders have had no formal discussions on how they’d approach a potential coup to topple Boehner, as some conservatives are threatening. He suggested the Democrats would steer clear of the issue until forced to do otherwise.
“We’ll have to respond to them when they manifest themselves in a way that it makes it necessary for us to respond,” he said. “And we’ll do that.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, echoed that message Wednesday, saying it’s “their war” and the Democrats aren’t ready to engage. He further suggested that it remains unclear if the Democrats stand to benefit by picking one GOP division over another.
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Hoyer, for his part, characterized the coup threat as more evidence of a Republican Party in upheaval. He said Democrats are as uncertain as everyone else about what happens next.
“We don’t know what the Republicans are going to do, and our experience has been that the Republicans are somewhat unpredictable,” he said.
“The thing you can usually predict is that they’ll create chaos in some fashion or another.”