It’s not easy being House Speaker John Boehner. Just ask John Boehner.
“Listen, trying to manage 435 independently elected members is never easy,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said earlier this week.
There are once again rumblings within Republican ranks of the House of Representatives about ousting Boehner. He’s beset with internal squabbles over the Iran nuclear deal, Planned Parenthood defunding efforts and questions about strategy as federal funding runs out at the end of the month and the federal government faces a potential shutdown.
But for all the sound and fury it appears that Boehner will continue to wield the speaker’s gavel. Why? Because there is no viable alternative, several lawmakers and political observers contend.
“I think he’s in very strong shape,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a Boehner ally. “He has no visible challenges that I know. The people that are upset with him have no alternative leader to propose.”
Still, with a daunting list of major issues that Congress must deal with by year’s end and a chorus of dissatisfied conservatives Republicans on and off Capitol Hill nipping at his heels, Boehner faces perhaps his toughest challenge as speaker yet.
“There’s frustration (among Republicans) because it’s not working out the way they thought when the won the House and Senate,” said Norman Ornstein, a scholar on politics and Congress at the American Enterprise Institute. “Their leaders have betrayed them as far as they’re concerned.”
It’s not enough to depose the king. There need to be someone who wants the throne.
Sarah Binder, a senior fellow on governance studies at the Brookings Institution
Tea party-supported Republicans have complained for the bulk of Boehner’s nearly five years as speaker that he’s too accommodating of House Democrats – whose votes he’s had to rely on to get key legislation passed – and too willing to compromise with the White House.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., sought in July to remove Boehner. His effort’s gone nowhere.
Meadows said the speaker’s Republican critics are watching how he handles the social and fiscal issues confronting Congress in the closing months because those would be determining factors into whether they make a move to try to unseat him.
“Really there is no line in the sand, no limited time on when or how (a vote to remove Boehner) would be done,” Meadows told The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, this week. “Probably the best way to say that is there are three or four (factors), and they are all running on parallel tracks.”
Boehner’s been here before. Last January, on a swearing-in day when Republicans celebrated gaining control of both the House and Senate for the first time in eight years, Boehner had to sweat out the vote to re-elect him as speaker.
There’s frustration (among Republicans) because it’s not working out the way they thought when the won the House and Senate. Their leaders have betrayed them as far as they’re concerned.
Norman Ornstein, a scholar on politics and Congress at the American Enterprise Institute
More than two dozen Republicans opposed his re-election. Disenchantment with Boehner has calcified among a small group that complains that House and Senate Republican leaders haven’t used their majorities to push a conservative agenda and stare down President Barack Obama.
“There are fewer votes for John Boehner today than there were in January,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, a staunch Boehner critic.”
Boehner dismisses such talk. He told reporters Thursday he has “widespread support amongst my members” as evidenced by the applause he received in a closed-door Republican caucus meeting after he changed strategy on the Iran nuclear deal votes to satisfy unhappy conservatives.
“It was a large standing ovation amongst our members for the tact that I have this job and what I have to put up with to keep it,” he said.
Even if there is an effort to overthrow Boehner, there’s still one missing element: a successor.
He has no visible challenges that I know. The people that are upset with him have no alternative leader to propose.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a Boehner ally
“It’s not enough to depose the king,” said Sarah Binder, a senior fellow on governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “There need to be someone who wants the throne.”
Meadows’ effort to remove now languishes in the House Rules Committee. He wanted to declare the speaker’s office vacant. Any House member could force a vote.
If that happened, Boehner would likely survive with the help of establishment Republicans and Democrats who would view him as a better alternative than any challengers eagerly backed by Republican rebels.
“That doesn’t get you anywhere but chaos on the floor and a pretty embarrassing defeat, I would think,” Cole said. “I think his position is pretty strong, but there’s no question he’s got a challenging time.”