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Can Speaker Boehner Survive?

[ Posted Thursday, July 28th, 2011 – 16:33 PDT ]

As I write this, the House of Representatives has still not voted on Speaker John Boehner's plan to raise the debt ceiling. But no matter how the vote goes, the real question behind this week's action in the Republican caucus in the House may be whether Boehner will still be Speaker when the shouting's over and done. The simmering Tea Party factionalism may be about to explode into public view, in other words.

There are, of course, many possible outcomes to the whole debt ceiling struggle. Boehner could twist enough arms behind the scenes to pass his bill tonight. Or he may fail. Either way, the whole episode is going to leave a bad taste in the Tea Partiers' mouths, one assumes. Whether Boehner strong-arms enough of them to pass his bill or not, the very fact that he's had to postpone the vote several times now speaks to the contentious problem of keeping his caucus in line -- which he's never been all that good at doing.

The real answer to the question of whether Boehner survives or not as Speaker may hinge on the end game of the debt ceiling brouhaha, which may not be known until next week. If the Reid plan somehow gets put on President Obama's desk, Boehner's position may be incredibly weak within his own caucus. If, however, the Boehner plan winds up on the Oval Office desk, the Speaker may survive in his leadership position. If Obama is forced to pull out the Fourteenth Amendment, then it probably won't matter whether Boehner survives or not, because the House Republicans will spend the next few months impeaching the president, no matter who is sitting in the Speaker's chair at the time (this option, obviously, opens a whole 'nother can of worms which we're not going to get into today).

The power struggle between Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor has simmered on the back burner ever since the 2010 midterm election. Cantor, of course, is the favorite of the Tea Party freshmen. Boehner is more of an "old guard" Republican who is more in tune with the establishment of the Republican Party.

If Boehner loses the vote tonight (or, more realistically, doesn't even hold it at all, due to not having the votes to pass it within his own caucus), then it may be seen as what parliamentary systems call a vote of "no confidence." To put it more plainly: if Boehner can't lead the House Republicans on an issue of this magnitude, then why should he be their leader? How can he "lead" when they refuse to follow him?

I admit I'm not conversant with the rules within the Republican Party for a "leadership challenge," so chalk the next few sentences up as supposition. Normally, a party votes for their leadership right before a new session of Congress starts, in December of even-numbered years. For two years, the leadership stays intact, and then if a challenge happens, it happens on the biannual schedule. But in extreme circumstances, the caucus forces the vote ahead of schedule, and can vote out their leadership and vote new leaders in. This is quite rare, obviously.

But Boehner probably wouldn't take it that far. He's more of a "party first" type of guy, and if he saw he didn't have the support of a majority of his caucus, he would likely voluntarily step down as Speaker, and open up the voting to challengers. If Boehner follows this route, it will likely be announced during the August congressional recess, and the first thing Republicans will do when they return in September is vote Eric Cantor in as the next Speaker.

Lefties out there who would delight in seeing John Boehner deposed in such a fashion should be cautioned about the old "be careful what you wish for" adage, since the phrase "Speaker Cantor" should send chills down their spines. If Cantor wins this internecine battle, then precisely nothing is going to get done in the next year and a half in Congress. With the Tea Party in full control of one house of Congress, it's a pretty safe bet that they'll be resurgent in their extremism. They'll gleefully pass hundreds of bills, which will then go to the Senate to die.

There's a lot on the line in the entire debt ceiling debate. What happens tonight will influence the legislative battle, to be sure. But whatever happens tonight won't be the end of the process. If John Boehner can't corral enough votes tonight for his bill, though, it may be the beginning of the end of his term as Speaker of the House.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

29 Comments on “Can Speaker Boehner Survive?”

  1. [1] 
    dsws wrote:

    I admit I'm not conversant with the rules within the Republican Party for a "leadership challenge," so chalk the next few sentences up as supposition.

    Speaker is a constitutional office, not a creation of the party. As far as I can see, the Speaker cannot be removed, and gets to choose his successor if he resigns:
    http://rules.house.gov/Media/file/PDF_112_1/legislativetext/112th%20Rules%20Pamphlet.pdf

  2. [2] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Lots of crazy stuff going on in Ohio ...

    Jim Jordan, a Congressman from the district right next to Boehner may get redistricted as a result of his disloyalty.

    http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2011/07/28/payback-coming.html?sid=101

    And I don't think this story even makes the top 3 on the Ohio crazy list right now ... *sigh*

    -David

  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    dsws -

    Yeah, but there are always two votes for Speaker. The first is (technically) meaningless, and happens within the caucus. the second is the official vote and happens on the floor of the House, with everybody getting to vote. Because the party in the majority always votes for their guy, they always win this vote.

    I'm talking about the behind-the-scenes vote here -- the one that happens before the official vote.

    But I will check the document out, and see what it says -- thanks for the link.

    -CW

  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    This just in...

    John McCain was reported to have said tonight "His [Boehner's] leadership is clearly at stake."

    Now, you can read that as small-L or big-L, I suppose...

    But still...

    -CW

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Hey Michale -

    500 quatloos right now says that if the Republicans pass a bill tonight, it'll be "without any time for anyone to actually read the legislation," after last-minute changes.

    Yet another Republican promise broken, eh?

    I'm just saying...

    Oh, from another thread, here's the one they've already tossed in the garbage, in its original text:

    Advance Legislative Issues One at a Time: We will end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with "must-pass" legislation to circumvent the will of the American people. Instead we will advance major legislation one issue at a time.

    The "will of the American people" right now is clearly heavily on the side of a mix of raising revenues and cuts (see: any poll).

    Awaiting your non-partisan response, after having to listen to you rant and rave when Democrats did either of these things previously...

    -CW

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    500 quatloos right now says that if the Republicans pass a bill tonight, it'll be "without any time for anyone to actually read the legislation," after last-minute changes.

    Damn, I missed the chance to actually win a bet!!!! :D

    I am certain that the GOP bill is probably the most widely read piece of legislation in the last decade.. :D

    At least Boehner did say, "You have to pass it before you can find out what's in it."

    eh?? :D

    Advance Legislative Issues One at a Time: We will end the practice of packaging unpopular bills with "must-pass" legislation to circumvent the will of the American people. Instead we will advance major legislation one issue at a time.

    OK, so where is the "unpopular bill" in this equation??

    Cutting spending?? I don't think THAT's unpopular...

    The "will of the American people" right now is clearly heavily on the side of a mix of raising revenues and cuts (see: any poll).

    Ignoring the fact that there are other polls that say just the opposite....

    THAT is exactly what the GOP bill does.. It mixes revenues and cuts... THAT's why it's having so much trouble passing.. Because the Tea Party people don't LIKE the revenues part of it...

    It's also quite similar to Reid's plan... Assuming Reid's plan actually exists. No one has seen it yet, as of a couple days ago..

    But here's the kicker...

    The ***ONLY*** reason Democrats don't like the GOP bill is because it forces Democrats to re-visit the issue before the election...

    Democrats would rather see the country default rather than be forced to do it again right before the election..

    Now, if the American People are on the Dems side on this issue, you would think that Democrats would *WANT* to visit this issue again before the election, right??

    I mean if, according to the American People, Democrats are good and pure in the Debt Ceiling issue then it would behoove Dems to DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN right before the election, no??? Think of all the goodwill and support Democrats would garner from the American People if this very same issue was re-visited right before the election..

    Fact is, Democrats are TERRIFIED of having to do this all over again before the election..

    They are SOO terrified of having to do it again that they would rather force the country into default rather than take the chance of revisiting the issue right before the election.

    And, please.. You have to admit.. The White House's claim that the "GOP WILL RUIN CHRISTMAS" is completely and utterly ludicrous..

    I mean, come on! That goes way beyond silly and the White House should be embarrassed. Who are they targeting with that message?? Little kids?? Why not just say, "Kids!! The mean old GOP is going to shoot Santa Claus!!"

    Such a message just reeks, literally REEKS, of desperation...

    These are the facts as I see them.. The facts clearly lead to the only logical conclusion.

    Democrats would prefer to see this country go into default rather than have to re-visit the issue again in 6-10 months..

    If my facts are in error, I encourage ANYONE to point out the error..

    If there are other facts that support a different conclusion, I also encourage anyone to put forth the differing conclusion with the supporting facts...

    But I don't understand why everyone here is so upset with me...

    All I am saying is that Democrats are playing politics with the welfare of this country...

    Geeeeezzee, there's a shocker of a revelation, eh???

    It's not as if it's a big surprise that EITHER Party would do this, eh???

    So, what's the big deal???

    Michale.....

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    GRRRRRRRR This is what happens when I don't have enough DC in my system...

    At least Boehner did say, "You have to pass it before you can find out what's in it."

    That should read

    At least Boehner didn't say, "You have to pass it before you can find out what's in it."

    My bust....

    Michale.....

  8. [8] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    The ***ONLY*** reason Democrats don't like the GOP bill is because it forces Democrats to re-visit the issue before the election...

    Really? Out of 193 house members, 51 senate members, 1 president, and countless staff, aids, et, this is the singular reason why they would not like it? Seems to me your argument hinges on gross exaggeration...

  9. [9] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    One possible solution is for the old guard Republicans to buck the tea party and pass a straight "clean" debt increase bill. That would get enough democratic support to pass in the house and all the way up. They could easily sell it as going back to their pledge of when they took office. As well as stating that more appropriate time for this fight is in October when major appropriation bills come up and shutting down government during the fight won't kill our credit rating. Contrary to your questionable logic, Michale, I think this is the real reason Democrats, or at least some of them, don't want to punt the issue. October is going to be ugly and possibly spill in to November. Put another debt increase bill a month later and Obama might just be right. It could ruin Christmas...

    As to the balanced budget amendment. Constitutional amendments are so rare, and should be, they should have their own bill and their own fight. Plus has anyone polled the states to see if they could get 3/4 of them? It takes four to tango with the constitution not just one...

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Bashi,

    Seems to me your argument hinges on gross exaggeration...

    Really?? All right, prove it.. :D

    Find me a current quote from a Democrat that states a specific reason for not liking the GOP plan that is NOT about the time frame..

    Because every discussion I have read shows that Democrats don't have ANY problem with the GOP bill other than the time frame issue..

    Like I said, every comment from Dems I have read say that the GOP plan and the Reid plan are nearly identical.. The only difference is that Reid's plan tries to stretch out the savings over 18 months, which is simply not doable...

    It's conjecture because Reid NOR Obama have actually put forth a plan...

    But if you can find a current quote from a Dem leader that says something is wrong with the GOP plan OTHER than the time frame, I will be happy to concede the point..

    It could ruin Christmas...

    Since Reagan is now the patron saint of the Left, it's easy to refute the "It will ruin Christmas" claim...

    During the Reagan years, Debt Ceiling was debated 4 times.. Once in Dec of 1980, once in November of 83, and in Nov AND Dec of 85...

    Guess what???

    Christmas (and the country) survived...

    Seriously??? "Ruin Christmas"??? That just REEKS of desperation...

    Why don't you claim that the GOP wants to arrest Santa Claus and throw him in a dark cell in Gitmo.. :^)

    The ONLY thing that the Left is worried about ruining is the (re)election chances of Democrats..

    But since the "professional" Left is so disgusted with Democrat leadership anyways, I hardly see the point.. :D

    Michale....

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    Find me a current quote from a Democrat that states a specific reason for not liking the GOP plan that is NOT about the time frame..

    That should read:

    Find me a current quote from a Democrat LEADER that states a specific reason for not liking the GOP plan that is NOT about the time frame..

    Michale.....

  12. [12] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    How about a Republican quote?

    =========
    Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said that in light of the drama and political theatrics of the past few weeks, it would not be "healthy" to have to raise the debt ceiling again in six months -- something that House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) bill would require.
    =========

    That's an "R" after his name, there.

    -CW

  13. [13] 
    akadjian wrote:

    During the Reagan years, Debt Ceiling was debated 4 times.. Once in Dec of 1980, once in November of 83, and in Nov AND Dec of 85.

    And every time it passed w/o an issue. In fact, I don't recall this ever being an issue until now.

    Since it seems you're fond of the Reagan process, why not simply raise the debt ceiling as under Reagan?

    Why hold the country hostage for all these other demands?

    Simply raise the debt ceiling and then talk about the budget during the normal budgetary process. That would be the Reagan way to do it.

    Because you know Republicans will make a giant stink the next time around as well. Which is vastly different than under Reagan.

    Though honestly as I've stated, I think Obama would be smart to schedule another debt ceiling increase about this same time next summer.

    It shows the Independents not just how nutty the Tea Party is (Kind of like Sarah Palin did) but also how selfish and destructive they are.

    You simply can't buy that much media coverage!

    Cheers
    -David

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW,

    How about a Republican quote?

    Unless it's a Democrat who gave that as a reason for not voting for the bill, it doesn't fit the... er.. bill..

    So to speak... :D

    As I have pointed out ad nasuem, the new Liberal Patron Saint, St Ronnie raised the Debt limit sometimes 3 or 4 times within a 6 month period.

    The country survived...

    David,

    And every time it passed w/o an issue. In fact, I don't recall this ever being an issue until now.

    Democrats made it an issue in 2006. They just lacked the backbone to actually stick to their guns..

    Why hold the country hostage for all these other demands?

    Because those other "demands" are what has caused numerous problems...

    Do you HONESTLY think that this country needs MORE SPENDING???

    SERIOUSLY???

    Because you know Republicans will make a giant stink the next time around as well. Which is vastly different than under Reagan.

    Just as Democrats made a stink in 2006..

    It's politics, David..

    Blaming Republicans for making a stinking is like blaming the sun for rising and setting every day..

    It's what they do...

    Democrats make a stink about the Republican agenda and Republicans make a stink about the Democrat agenda....

    Michale.....

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If everyone is so serious about controlling deficits and debt, then why is no one focusing on the main items that are responsible for the burgeoning deficits and debt over the last 12 years in the first place?

  16. [16] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Just as Democrats made a stink in 2006.

    There was a vote against to make a statement with no chance of it not being raised.

    Zero stink.

    In fact, no one would even know it ever happened were it not for the current mess.

    Do you HONESTLY think that this country needs MORE SPENDING?

    Trouble is, the money's already been spent.

    We've just gotten a $12 trillion dollar credit card bill in the mail. The minimum payment is due on Aug. 2nd.

    Would you not pay your credit card bill?

    Also, do you know what happens when you don't pay your credit card bill?

    Late fees, your interest rate goes up, and your credit rating goes down (meaning its harder to borrow more money).

    If interest rates go up that means we owe more. That is, these folks are making the deficit even bigger.

    In all seriousness, if they want to talk about it, why not have those talks during the budget process? Why 'eff up the country first?

    -David

  17. [17] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Blaming Republicans for making a stinking is like blaming the sun for rising and setting every day.

    BTW- Can I quote you on that?

    They do seem to stink a lot :)

  18. [18] 
    db wrote:

    Chris,

    I really think you missed the point. Boehner needed enough Republican votes on the debt ceiling to counteract the (assumed) solid Democratic opposition. Thus he needed about 80% of the Republican vote. If it flubs (still) or for whatever reason Boehner would need only 50%+1 of the votes for Speaker in the caucus. I can't see the Tea Party voting for "Speaker Pelosi", can you?

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    One question that NO ONE has been able to answer..

    Where is the Democrat plan???

    There is none...

    Michale.....

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    David,

    There was a vote against to make a statement with no chance of it not being raised.

    So, maybe this is how the GOP makes their "statement"..

    Do you hear yourself??

    "Oh, it's OK if Democrats oppose raising the Debt Ceiling, but it's not OK if Republicans oppose."

    This is the exact kind of partisan ideology gone wild that I am referring to...

    The US and THEM mentality that Obama has encouraged in this country...

    In all seriousness, if they want to talk about it, why not have those talks during the budget process? Why 'eff up the country first?

    Democrats had a LOCK on government. Why didn't they even ATTEMPT a "budget process"???

    Because they were too busy forcing their UNWANTED and ILL ADVISED agenda down the throat of the American people...

    Democrats had their chance to do the right thing. Get a budget, get the country back on track and back to work..

    They blew it..

    Growing up is painful and sometimes hard lessons must be taught and tough love must be imposed..

    Democrats have absolutely NO ONE to blame but themselves.

    It might even help a LITTLE if Democrats actually had a plan to put forth..

    But they don't... They have absolutely nothing...

    "He's old Mother Hubbard and Vaughn's in the cupboard!!"
    -Randy Quaid, MAJOR LEAGUE II

    :D

    Seriously, why don't Democrats put forth a plan??

    Obama is said to have a plan but, according to the White House, "it's a secret"... :^/

    Michale.....

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    Do you think that it's a good idea to link a vote for raising the debt ceiling to a deficit and debt reduction package?

  22. [22] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Do you hear yourself?

    Nope. I hear you putting words in my mouth

    "Oh, it's OK if Democrats oppose raising the Debt Ceiling, but it's not OK if Republicans oppose."

    A meaningless vote against something when your vote doesn't matter is a political act of protest. Both parties do it all the time.

    What's different here as opposed to 2006 is a) it was an up/down vote on raising the debt ceiling in 2006 (no one was demanding cuts in order to raise it), b) none of the Democratic protest votes mattered then, and c) the Democrats never threatened to take down the entire economy.

    Besides. Why does it matter so much to you what Democrats do? Why not take some responsibility instead of always pointing to what Democrats did in 2006 that no one even remembers because it was so uneventful?

    Why not "lead by example" as you seem fond of saying?

    This is brilliant. I know your answer already. Its because the Democrats aren't doing it.

    This is too funny. Its like an Abbott and Costello skit. But instead of 3rd base, it's 4th grade :)

    The US and THEM mentality that Obama has encouraged in this country.

    Yes! By endlessly giving in to the demands of Republicans, Obama has encouraged an "US and THEM" mentality!!!

    Hahahahahahahahah ...

    I love it. Keep it coming! We can always use the laughs.

    -David

  23. [23] 
    Michale wrote:

    Besides. Why does it matter so much to you what Democrats do? Why not take some responsibility instead of always pointing to what Democrats did in 2006 that no one even remembers because it was so uneventful?

    I am simply pointing out the political hypocrisy...

    "Raising the Debt Ceiling is a failure of leadership"
    -Senator Barack Obama

    Yes! By endlessly giving in to the demands of Republicans, Obama has encouraged an "US and THEM" mentality!!!

    No, by always emphasizing the differences, by always railing against Republicans or "fat cats" or whatever, Obama is all about the US vs THEM mentality..

    I love it. Keep it coming! We can always use the laughs.

    Well, I am glad that SOMEONE finds this gross and perverse example of "leadership" funny...

    Still waiting on any details of the Democrat's "plan"...

    Or is it still a "secret"?

    Michale.....

  24. [24] 
    Michale wrote:

    OK, I just found some details on the Democrat's "plan"...

    And I must admit that I was wrong..

    The Democrats "plan" doesn't include ANY revenues. It uses an accounting gimmick to count savings from the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars that were already in place...

    But I was correct when I said that the only difference between the GOP plan and the Democrat plan is that the Dem plan extends the issue until after the election. The GOP plan extends the issue for 6-10 months.

    Which, considering the paltry "savings" that the plans have, it's impossible to extend the issue as long as the Dem plan wants...

    So, yes I was wrong.

    There are no revenues in EITHER plan...

    Still ya'all STILL wanna tout the Dem plan??

    Michale....

  25. [25] 
    Michale wrote:

    Further, I think you are missing the issue of what exactly the Debt Ceiling is, David.

    The Debt Ceiling limits the amount of debt the Treasury Department can ISSUE...

    It has no bearing on the debt that HAS been issued..

    The Treasury Department has the authority and the ability to sell off assets, like extra funding from those totally useless Porkulus packages and hard assets like gold and the like.. Debt Interest is "only" around $214 billion. :D That can easily be covered by trimming all the fat from Obama's useless programs he has saddled the country with. Hell, get rid of CrapCare (which is a jobs killer) and that will cover ANY default that seems to terrify you so, many times over...

    Plus there is the revenue that STILL comes in from taxes and stuff. Despite Obama's totally ridiculous fear-mongering about SS checks not being issued, those debts are completely covered by incoming revenue with tens of billions of dollars left over..

    The idea that the country will end on Aug 3rd is just so much fear-mongering... I thought ya'all were against fear-mongering???

    The idea that this country will default and can't pay the bills if Democrats don't get their way is complete and utter felgercarb. It's nothing but fear-mongering on a gross and perverse scale.....

    Apparently, it can't be THAT big of a deal, since Obama's multi-million dollar birthday celebration/fund raiser is still set for 3 days after ARMAGEDDON...

    Michale.....

  26. [26] 
    db wrote:

    Damn that Obama, how dare he have a birthday near a crisis of Republican making!

  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:

    Damn that Obama, how dare he have a birthday near a crisis of Republican making!

    Oh, he's allowed to have a birthday..

    But seriously.. Considering "dire", "disaster", "Armageddon", "Apocalypse" and all the other adjectives that have been used to describe the fate that awaits, wouldn't a more low-key celebration be more appropriate, rather than a multi-million dollar celebration/fundraiser that costs the taxpayers boo-koo bucks???

    I can't help but wonder how the Left would re-act if it was President Bush instead of President Obama... They Left would go crazy over something like this...

    You know it. I know it.. :D

    As far as "a crisis of Republican making"???

    "Fiction can be fun, but I find the reference section a little more enlightening"
    -Jim Carrey, ACE VENTURA PET DETECTIVE

    For the record, it was Democrats who quadrupled our Debt, not Republicans..

    Democrats added more to the Debt in 4 years than ANY president and Congress from the previous 200 years.

    Future historians will clearly blame the orgasmic spending of the Democrats for this current fiasco...

    Which isn't to say that Republicans don't share some of the blame. It's true, they do..

    However that doesn't negate the fact that Democrats and their out of control spending is a very large part of why we are where we are...

    Michale....

  28. [28] 
    Michale wrote:

    Democrats added more to the Debt in 4 years than ANY president and Congress from the previous 200 years.

    I might also add that, the COMBINED total debt of all Presidents and Congress from 2000 back to 1776 is LESS (Yes, you read that right, **LESS**) than Democrats added from 2006 thru today...

    And you have the AUDACITY to claim that this is a crisis of the Republicans making!!????

    SERIOUSLY????

    If you honestly believe that, I have some swampland if Florida I am just DYING to sell you... :D

    Michale.....

  29. [29] 
    dsws wrote:

    If everyone is so serious about controlling deficits and debt, then why is no one focusing on the main items that are responsible for the burgeoning deficits and debt over the last 12 years in the first place?

    I keep saying, "Cut Medicare, cut Social Security, raise taxes, cut Medicaid, and cut the military".

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