WASHINGTON – It was the biggest revolt against a House speaker in more than 100 years, but the conservative rebellion to dump Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, fell short on Tuesday, the first day of the 114th Congress.
Boehner was re-elected with 216 votes, a majority of the 408 votes cast.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was second with 164 votes. Most Democrats voted for Pelosi.
Prior to the election, it looked like just 29 opposition votes were needed for GOP conservatives to force a second ballot, but so many Democrats attended the funeral of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, D-N.Y., the threshold was raised considerably.
To win the majority, Boehner needed only 204 votes from the 246 House Republicans, giving him a comfortable cushion of 41 votes. (The GOP House contingent was reduced from 247 to 246 the day before when Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., resigned after pleading guilty to tax evasion.)
As it turned out, 25 GOP House members voted for a candidate other than Boehner. (That means 30 Republicans, in all, did not vote for Boehner; apparently 5 simply did not vote.)
But the drive to oust the speaker gained well more support than the 12-to-20 opposition votes most political observers expected. It was nearly an historic effort: The election for House Speaker hasn’t been forced to a second ballot since 1923.
The candidates nominated to oppose Boehner were Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Daniel Webster, Fla., and Pelosi.
Twelve voted for Webster.
Three voted for Gohmert.
Two voted for Yoho.
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R- S.C, voted for Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., but Gowdy himself was not present to vote.
It was widely speculated Gowdy would vote for Boehner, out of concern he might lose his post as chairman of the Benghazi select committee. Shortly after Boehner’s re-election, Gowdy released a statement saying he missed the vote due to a flight canceled by bad weather and that he would have voted for Boehner.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. also received a vote.
It is not necessary to be a member of the House to be elected speaker.
Also receiving votes were Colin Powell, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Duncan.
The 25 Republicans who did not vote for Boehner were:
- Rep. Justin Amash voted for Jordan
- Rep. Brian Babin voted present
- Rep. Rod Blum voted for Webster
- Rep. Dave Brat voted for Duncan
- Rep. Jim Bridenstine voted for Gohmert
- Rep. Curt Clawson voted for Paul
- Rep. Scott DesJarlais voted for Jordan
- Rep. Jeff Duncan voted for Gowdy
- Rep. Scott Garrett voted for Webster
- Rep. Chris Gibson voted for McCarthy
- Rep. Louie Gohmert voted for himself
- Rep. Paul Gosar voted for Webster
- Rep. Tim Huelskamp voted for Webster
- Rep. Walter Jones voted Webster
- Rep. Steve King voted for Webster
- Rep. Thomas Massie voted for Yoho
- Rep. Mark Meadows voted for Webster
- Rep. Rich Nugent voted for Webster
- Rep. Gary Palmer voted for Sessions
- Rep. Bill Posey voted for Webster
- Rep. Scott Rigell voted for Webster
- Rep. Marlin Stutzman voted for Webster
- Rep. Randy Weber voted for Gohmert
- Rep. Daniel Webster voted for himself
- Rep. Ted Yoho voted for himself
Other prominent GOP conservatives all voted for Boehner.
The four Democrats who didn’t vote for Pelosi: Reps. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., Gwen Graham, D-Fla., Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D- Ariz.
Conservative challengers to Boehner were hoping to gain additional support had there been a second ballot.
Opposition to re-electing the speaker appeared to be growing the closer it came to the 12:40 p.m. vote.
On Tuesday morning, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, described to WND an “ever-intensifying effort to organize opposition for the floor vote.”
King said he believed 14 or 15 House members had lined up against Boehner and would soon go public, and he turned out to be correct.
The 15 lawmakers who announced their opposition to Boehner before the vote were:
- Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas
- Rep. Ted Yoho, Fla.
- Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa
- Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.
- Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.
- Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kans.
- Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas
- Rep. Curtis Clawson, R-Fla.
- Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla.
- Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va.
- Rep. Walter Jones, N.C.
- Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala.
- Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
- Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
- Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind.
About 30 of the most conservative members of the House appeared to be potentially undecided before the vote, refusing to publicly declare their support for either Boehner or an opponent.
But they did not jump on the rebellion bandwagon, leaving challengers just short of the votes needed to oust Boehner.
It appeared that voters would have had their backs, had those lawmakers opposed Boehner.
WND’s “Dump Boehner” campaign has generated more than 500,000 letters urging House members to fire the speaker.
And a recent poll found 60 percent of Republican voters want a new speaker.
Additionally, callers urging lawmakers to vote against Boehner reportedly jammed the House switchboard on Monday.
Conservative members of the House were upset when the previous Congress approved funding for the continuation of Obamacare and an executive amnesty they claimed was unconstitutional – triggering the hundreds of thousands of yellow letters demanding the ouster of John Boehner as speaker of the House.
Americans responded in droves to a call from WND Editor and CEO Joseph Farah through the recently launched “Don’t be Yellow, Dump Boehner Now!” campaign.
The campaign encouraged constituents to let all 247 (now 246) GOP members of the House majority know they need to pick another speaker and “Dump Boehner.”
The campaign already has generated 560,000 letters – or a stack reaches nearly 19 stories tall.
However, the threat of retaliation by Boehner was apparently great enough to keep his troops in line.
Boehner had just one stick to hold onto power, but it was a big one: He could strip lawmakers of prized committee assignments and chairmanships.
This powerful threat most likely explained why so few conservatives had publicly announced they would oppose Boehner in Tuesday’s election for the top post in the House.
Despite the relatively few lawmakers opposed to Boehner, there had been no public stampede of support for the speaker, with the vast silence indicating many of those uncommitted lawmakers were quite possibly undecided voters.
A look at the numbers showed the “undecideds” held the balance of power, and could easily could have amassed the votes needed to send the vote to a second ballot.
The size of the conservative contingent of GOP lawmakers in the House can be roughly estimated by the size of the Tea Party Caucus, which has about 45 current members.
With King’s estimate of as many as 15 House members prepared to oppose Boehner, that left about 30 conservatives Republicans yet to commit, with those votes theoretically up for grabs.
And that would have given those 30 “undecideds” the power to force a second ballot, should they have chosen to rebel against Boehner.
WND contacted 21 of the most-well known of these conservatives, but received scant responses as to how they would vote, as they perhaps weighed the risk of retaliation versus the reward of replacing Boehner with a more conservative leader:
- Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah
- Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas
- Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla.
- Rep. Jeff Duncan, S.C.
- Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas
- Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.
- Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.
- Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
- Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kans.
- Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio
- Rep.-elect Mia Love, R-Utah
- Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.
- Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.
- Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas
- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.
- Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif.
- Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.
- Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb.
- Rep. Lamar S. Smith, R-Texas
- Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.
- Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.
Lummis responded to WND with a statement that read:
“The time to run for speaker was at the Republican Conference elections held on November 13, and at that time John Boehner was the only one to stand up. This sudden, last-ditch effort to unseat Boehner is ill-timed and unsupported. Mr. Boehner and I do not see eye to eye on every issue, but voting against a speaker who ran unopposed and was unanimously chosen by Republicans in November will only hurt Wyoming.”
And the man who seconded the nomination of Boehner at that conference? Gowdy, the very same lawmaker many have urged to run against Boehner.
WND was told Rohrabacher was “keeping his options open.”
A spokesperson for incoming conservative lawmaker Love had a “no comment” for WND. She voted for Boehner.
Boehner did not hesitate to discipline leaders of the dozen dissenters who voted against the speaker the last time.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., was removed from the agriculture committee, and he and Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., were both thrown off the budget committee in late 2012 after they opposed Boehner in the last election for speaker. Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., was kicked off the financial services committee.
Huelskamp indicated he would vote for Boehner this time but changed his mind.
Schweikart said he would vote for Boehner and he did.
Reps. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., who previously opposed Boehner, both planned vote for him this time, and did.
Mulvaney used a Facebook post to tell voters urging him to oppose Boehner, “I had that fight two years ago … remember? … we failed miserably, and all it did was marginalize conservatives. I fail to see how the same thing wouldn’t happen again.”
He added, “I am all for having a good fight … in fact, it is part of my job that I really enjoy sometimes … but at the same time, I do remember Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.”
The chief of staff for incoming Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, had told WND the congressman’s decision was still very much “in process” and that Young was attempting to interview all three announced candidates for the job of speaker.
Brat pledged to support Boehner in November but changed his mind Sunday, saying, “While I like Speaker Boehner personally, he will not have my support for speaker.”
Perhaps surprisingly, King did not support his often-close colleague, Gohemert, but instead supported Webster, with whom he had been discussing this eventuality for two years.
King called Webster a good candidate who “understands that the role of any leader is to bring out the will of the group, not to impose their will on the group.”
Bridenstine said he was looking for leadership who would restore the respect for the constitution and for the traditional “regular order” in Congress that will allow considerate deliberation and debate.
Many conservatives were upset Boehner allowed a budget bill to pass without challenging President Obama on funding for his executive amnesty or Obamacare.
Bridenstine said, “Speaker Boehner went too far when he teamed with Obama to advance this legislation. He relinquished the power of the purse, and with it he lost my vote.”
Incoming Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., said he told Boehner personally back in October that the speaker wouldn’t have his vote.
Jones had been saying he would oppose Boehner since before Christmas, when he told a local radio station he and up to 18 other conservatives were trying to find a good candidate to replace the speaker.
Massie tweeted a photo last week of a McDonald’s drive-through sign reading: “NEXT SPEAKER PLEASE.”
If elected speaker, Gohmert had promised his top priorities would be using the power of the purse to defund amnesty, Obamacare and to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.