Leftist activists booing GOP House Speaker John Boehner in New York should come as no surprise, but what about when the boos are coming from fellow Republicans?
On Capitol Hill, tea-party Republicans have demonstrated a willingness to buck Boehner and GOP leadership on a number of issues; and at home, many activists are increasingly turning against the Ohio Republican, whom they see as part of the GOP “establishment.”
Bloomberg, for example, reports since 2010 a bloc of 41 House Republicans, or about 1 in 5 members of the GOP majority, have repeatedly voted against House leadership.
And Earlier this year, Boehner had to survive what some reported as a “coup” attempt, when roughly a dozen of his GOP colleagues voted against or withheld their vote in protest of his re-election as speaker.
CNN reported, “The small number of defections amounted to a tiny percentage, but it was still the largest number opposing the re-election of a House speaker in recent history.”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., who voted against Boehner’s speakership, was forthright in his defiance, explaining to the Wichita Eagle, “As I told the speaker, ‘I don’t work for you, Mr. John Boehner. I work for 700,000 Kansans.’”
Burdett Loomis, a professor of political science at the University of Kansas, explains committee assignments and other typical tokens of a speaker’s favor – or disfavor – hold little clout with those tea-party types who stick by principle over politics.
“What can Boehner offer Huelskamp? Virtually nothing,” said Loomis. “Boehner has a terrific problem that there are about 70 folks in the caucus (who) really aren’t interested in what he has to offer.”
Tea-party types at home, however, haven’t been any kinder to the embattled speaker.
A recent internal poll conducted by the Tea Party Patriots as reported by U.S. News, for example, found 81.5 percent of the “tens of thousands” surveyed dissatisfied with House GOP leadership and 74.1 percent either calling for or considering Boehner’s termination as speaker.
Recent GOP compromises on Obamacare, illegal immigration and spending haven’t helped Boehner’s image as a Republican leader, but his refusal to approve a select committee for investigating the Benghazi scandal has been nothing short of a lightning rod for controversy inside the party.
As WND reported, Boehner has insisted a devoted, select committee to look into the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, isn’t “necessary.”
Despite allegations the CIA may be covering up a guns-to-terrorists scandal and the White House may have abandoned Americans to die in order to protect the secret, Boehner has entrusted already busy, existing House committees to look into it.
Boehner’s reluctance to launch a more serious investigation has prompted a challenge from within his own party, as Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., introduced a resolution to establish a select committee.
Not a mere dozen, but over 160 House Republicans have co-sponsored the resolution demanding a heightened investigation. Boehner, however, has refused to bring it to a vote.
This has further prompted Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, to introduce H.Res. 306, a discharge petition that would overrule Boehner and force GOP leaders to allow a House vote on Wolf’s demand for a select committee.
Stockman explained in an open letter to Boehner, “No standing committee has sweeping-enough jurisdiction nor do any of them possess sufficiently wide scope of action to ferret out and put all the pieces of this puzzle together when the administration intentionally is misleading and stonewalling Congress and the American people to keep the truth hidden.”
“If I can get 218 Congressional Republicans to back me, a majority of the House,” Stockman explained on his website, “we will break through the D.C. stonewall and there will finally be a vote on creating the select committee to investigate Benghazi.”
On his July 23 program, talk radio host Mark Levin blasted the speaker for resisting his own party’s clear wishes and speculated Boehner and President Obama must have “cut some kind of a deal” not to allow the truth out about Benghazi.
“John Boehner does not want to get to the bottom of what took place in Benghazi,” Levin opined. “He’s been asked over and over again by a majority of the Republicans in the House to set up a special investigative committee, as is the tradition in these types of investigations. So you concentrate expertise and resources and time in one special committee rather than multiple committees that are also investigating other matters and overseeing other matters and handling bills and so forth.”
Levin continued, “It’s obvious at this point, ladies and gentlemen, that we have to draw a very sad conclusion: John Boehner does not want to know what took place in Benghazi on that horrific day. And I’m honestly starting to think that he’s cut some kind of deal with Obama, because why else would he do this?”
Levin’s full comments can be heard below:
Similar questions are being asked by the organization Special Operations Speaks, or SOS, which is preparing to bring the Benghazi headache back to Boehner's home town.
According to multiple reports, the organization is purchasing ad space on full-size billboards in Boehner's district that suggest if it were Congressmen killed in Benghazi, instead of merely diplomats and agents, there would be a more significant investigation.
The billboards will encourage people to call Boehner's office and demand creation of a select committee.
"We know this is a bold step, and it may raise some well-coiffed hairs on the back of John Boehner's neck," said SOS Co-Founder Larry Bailey. "But the fact is that he, and he alone, is blocking a full-scale Watergate-style investigation of one of the deadliest scandals in U.S. history … a scandal that reaches into the inner sanctum of the Oval Office."
And that's not all
Boehner's troubles, however, may be just beginning.
As Politico reports, the widening divide between Boehner and the tea party, indeed between Republican leadership and GOP base a whole, is already spilling out onto the campaign trail for 2014.
In Idaho, for example, GOP Rep. Mike Simpson, whom Politico describes as "a longtime figure of the Washington order … a powerful Appropriations Committee cardinal and one of House Speaker John Boehner's best friends," is fighting a surprising primary battle against Bryan Smith, an attorney backed by the anti-tax organization Club for Growth.
The battle is revealing a trend that may sorely test GOP leadership in 2014: Primary challengers who can make electoral hay by blasting incumbent, even "conservative" Republicans as wobbly Washington insiders.
"Idaho's 2nd Congressional District is turning into a proxy war for the middle-right of the Republican Party and the right-right of the Republican Party," said Phil Hardy, an Idaho Republican operative and a political analyst in the state. "It's already happening."
And if 2014 does become a primary battle between Boehner's "insiders" and tea-party upstarts, a July Pew Research Center survey suggests Boehner may be facing a serious challenge.
Though Pew found tea-party sympathizers are a minority of Republicans overall (37 percent), they're much more active when it comes to voting in primaries.
"Overall, 62 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters who agree with the tea party say they 'always' vote in primary elections," Pew reports. "By comparison, only 45 percent of non-tea-party Republican voters say they always vote in primaries."
That 17-point gap in participation translates to tea partiers turning out in higher numbers, where they could make up nearly half (49 percent) of Republicans voting in the primaries.
Considering the Tea Party Patriots poll that found more than 80 percent unhappy with the GOP House and 74 percent ready to fire the speaker, Boehner and friends may face a stiff challenge indeed.