House Speaker John Boehner was re-elected to lead the 113th Congress on Thursday, ending a combative month of discord and a possible revolt by Republican congressmen.
Speaker Boehner barely scraped together the 218 votes needed to secure re-election, according to The Hill. Nine Republicans defected, three did not vote, and one voted “present” — which brought Speaker Boehner perilously close to having to go to a second ballot against Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats‘ nominee.
In the end he earned 220 votes, or two more than needed, to claim the speakership for the second Congress in a row.
Resentment against Speaker Boehner began simmering in early December when he booted several prominent fiscal conservatives aligned with the Tea Party from their committee positions in congress. The move was seen a “message” to rank-and-file Republicans to not go against any deal hammered out between the speaker and President Obama over the federal budget, creating a scenario similar to one that plagued budget talks about the so-called “debt ceiling” in 2011.
Speaker Boehner’s “message” prompted the early retirement of Republican Senator Jim DeMint a day later. Senator DeMint had been influential in getting several Tea Party candidates, including Tennessee Senator Rand Paul, elected to office. Several Republican congressmen, angered by Speaker Boehner’s show of force, were began hinting they would not vote to re-elect him as speaker.
Things got even darker for Speaker Boehner as the month trudged along. House Republicans rejected a proposed “Plan B” budget he wrote, sending the speaker into a weakened bargaining position with President Obama.
A rider granting US$60 billion in federal aid to Hurricane Sandy victims was then tacked onto an emergency federal budget being rushed through congress to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.” That rider was separated from the budget before it was voted on late Tuesday night, and congress ended its session for the year without casting a ballot on the aid package.
Although it was reported that Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who sets the House schedule, wanted to review the aid package and other factors to decide if corresponding budget cuts would be needed before calling a vote on the bill, New York area Republicans blasted Speaker Boehner for ending the session without a vote.
New York Rep. Peter King said the move was a “stab in the back” to New Yorkers, while New Jersey governor Chris Christie blasted Speaker Boehner, saying, “it is why the American people hate Congress.”
Speaker Boehner made an awkward backtrack Wednesday, calling for a Friday vote on the first US$9 billion of aid money, and vowing the rest of the US$60 billion in aid would be voted on by Congress on January 15. Approval is expected.
But the month-long damage had taken its toll and by Wednesday night, rumors were circulating that Speaker Boehner would retire from the speakership that evening. Two sources confirmed with Brietbart News that at least 20 representatives were going to oppose him during Thursday’s vote.
Before the vote, Speaker Boehner privately met with Republicans and vowed to no longer have one-on-one negotiations with President Obama, reports The Hill.
“He [Speaker Boehner] is recommitting himself and the House to what we’ve done, which is working through regular order and letting the House work its will,” an aide to the speaker said.
That tactical shift will be put to the test in March, when a showdown over raising the debt ceiling and replacing steep automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending will take place. It will also affect negotiations over illegal immigration amnesty and gun control legislation.