Boehner in Hot Seat as Move to Replace Him Gains Momentum

Saturday, 22 Dec 2012 12:39 PM

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House Speaker John Boehner has found himself in the hot seat following the failure of his “Plan B” to avoid the fiscal cliff. And now all eyes are on whether the Ohio Republican can survive as speaker when a vote is taken in the House in the New Year.

It could potentially take as few as 17 Republicans to vote against him for him to lose the post, and with it the leadership of the House GOP that he has held for five years.

Several House Republicans are considering a plan to unseat Boehner, Breitbart  reported Friday, and have compiled a detailed plan to accomplish that goal when the speaker of the 113th House is elected on Jan. 3. The representatives, who were not identified because they feared retaliation against them, say they want to elect the next speaker by secret ballot, rather than by roll call.

Alert: Will Boehner, Obama Avoid the Fiscal Cliff? Vote Here

If a resolution for a secret ballot is passed, it could increase the chances of Boehner being ousted, Breitbart said.

Even opposing a resolution for secrecy could put Boehner in a difficult spot as he has consistently championed secret ballots for trades unions, Breitbart says, quoting an article the speaker wrote for US News & World Report in which he said open ballots leave union members “open to coercion and intimidation.”

The plan next requires having enough GOP members to band together and pick an alternative nomination for speaker. There will be 434 voting members of the House on Jan. 3, and the person winning the Speaker election will need to secure at least 217 votes — meaning only 17 Republicans would be needed to unseat Boehner if all Democrats voted against.

However, the Plan B defeat does not necessarily mean Boehner will get the boot. Many conservative critics of Boehner’s decision to pull the legislation off the table deny there has been discussion of kicking him out of the speaker seat, and they expect he’ll be re-elected during the formal floor vote.

“This was not a vote of no confidence in the speaker,” South Carolina freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who opposed Plan B, told The Hill. “This was a legislative defeat, not a personal defeat.”

Fellow Republican Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana also said he continues to support Boehner, even if he didn’t back Plan B, saying the “frustration is with President Obama.”

Boehner and his top lieutenants, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Whip Kevin McCarthy had said throughout the day Thursday they had enough votes to pass Plan B. But the vote was canceled shortly before it was due and Boehner led House members in prayer before dismissing them for the Christmas break.

Some believe Boehner helped his own cause by not forcing them to vote for his plan. Retiring moderate Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio believes he will not face a challenge over the vote’s failure.

“It’s like saying the superintendent of an insane asylum should be discharged because he couldn’t control the crazy people,” LaTourette said. “That’s nuts.”

Meanwhile, conservative activists outside the House are pushing for him to go. The group American Majority Action on Friday openly called for his resignation.

Alert: Will Boehner, Obama Avoid the Fiscal Cliff? Vote Here

President and CEO Ned Ryun said on Friday, “Speaker Boehner embarrassed the conservative movement” by pushing Plan B.

The group’s spokesman Ron Meyer went further, saying Boehner “should save the Republican Party the embarrassment of a public leadership battle and resign.”

“The world might not have ended today,” added Meyer, referring to predictions from the Mayan calendar. “But Speaker Boehner’s power is at an end. It’s time to make room for fresh leadership and a new approach to governing.”

Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt tweeted, “Negotiating. In secret and losing in public is a bad combo. Seek input for positions first. Good argument for a new Speaker,”

And Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner claimed in a tweet that Boehner is now “useless” as speaker.

One of Boehner’s fiercest GOP critics in the House, Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, said, “We clearly can't have a speaker operate well outside" what Republicans want to do.”

Boehner himself said he is not worried about losing the post, adding that he is proud of House Republicans. He said Thursday’s setback was due to a “perception” that Plan B raised tax rates. Further, he said he’s not considering the Plan B failure as a personal rebuke.

Meanwhile, prominent Democrats reveled in the position Boehner has found himself. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Friday accused him of being “more concerned about his re-election as speaker.”

“I like John Boehner, but gee whiz, this is a pretty big political battering he’s taking,” Reid said.

And even if there are grumbles about Boehner, there may be nobody suitable to challenge him for the role as essentially the most powerful Republican in the country. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, who had been touted as a challenger has said he is not interested. Other possible replacements, whose names have been mentioned, include Cantor and McCarthy and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

“No one else can right now do the job of bringing everyone together,” John Feehery, a consultant and former aide to House GOP leaders told the Associated Press.

Alert: Will Boehner, Obama Avoid the Fiscal Cliff? Vote Here

The AP called Boehner “wounded,” adding, “Congressional leaders amass power partly by their ability to command votes, especially in showdowns. His failure to do so Thursday stands to weaken his muscle with Obama and among House Republicans.”

Clearly no-one envies Boehner his position. "If there's a major defeat delivered here, it could make it tough on him," leading conservative Rep. Steve King of Iowa said. "He's in a tough spot."

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