House Speaker John Boehner denied again Thursday through his aides that he plans to step down after the 2014 midterm elections even though some of his closest allies have told reporters that the Ohio Republican has had enough of the high political drama and intraparty feuding on Capitol Hill.
"These inside-the-Beltway parlor games take place every two years," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told The Huffington Post
. "The speaker has made clear publicly he intends to remain in his position in the next Congress."
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But all summer long, the rumors started by former Boehner aides and others close to the speaker have continued, despite his previous denial in July that he has no plans to give up his leadership gavel.
"He has to say that," a former GOP leadership aide, identified as a member of Boehner's inner circle, told The Huffington Post. "The minute you say [you're leaving], you're done. Everybody around him thinks this is his last term."
Stepping aside may be the better part of valor in the long run, given the tension surrounding his re-election as speaker in January. Tea Party Republicans angry over his handling of the budget and debt-limit crisis sought to deny him the 218 votes he needed to remain in the speaker's chair. He ended up winning
by only 220 votes.
"He barely won the last one and that group of opposition has only grown," said a former leadership aide. "The ones who were in on it and got cold feet basically gave him a reprieve. They won't be willing to do that again."
According to The Huffington Post, several lawmakers are already lining up for the top House leadership positions that would open if Boehner steps down and if Republicans managed to hold on to the majority in next year's elections. Among those said to be in the running for either speaker or majority leader is Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who currently chairs the House Financial Services Committee.
Georgia Rep. Tom Price is also reportedly being considered among many of his colleagues as a challenger to current House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California.
Boehner's future, should he decide to fight on as speaker, may hinge on whether he can lock in a "grand bargain" with the Obama administration that cuts entitlement programs and tightens spending, according to some of his former aides and close associates.
"I personally think he'd like to try for a grand bargain this fall. If he doesn't get anything to leave a legacy, I could see him trying to stick around," another former Boehner aide told The Huffington Post.
Some on Boehner's current staff point to his fundraising efforts on behalf of House Republicans as further evidence that he's still serious about wanting to stay in his current job. The speaker has raised more than $30 million this year through June to help in next year's elections, and added to that in July and August.
"He hasn't slowed down one bit. For example, he has spent the entire August recess on the road doing events for his colleagues," a source close to Boehner told The Huffington Post in a Tuesday email. "He flew in today for [a] meeting at the White House and then immediately went back on the road."
Sources also told the online news outlet that Boehner is leery of leaving negotiations over spending and the debt limit to other Republicans, and worries that the GOP conference could split further in the House if he's not there to intervene.
But no matter how things turn out, those close to the speaker say he'll take it in stride.
"He has a pretty healthy perspective on life," said one Republican operative. "He likes to golf, he likes to travel. You have limited time left once you get close to 70."
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