January 3rd, 2013
01:39 PM ET
2 years ago

Boehner re-elected speaker in midst of public defections

Washington (CNN) – Rep. John Boehner was re-elected Speaker of the House Thursday.

But after roughly a dozen of his own colleagues voted for someone else or withheld their vote to protest his leadership, the Ohio Republican begins his second term tasked with leading a conference that isn't shy about bucking him.

In total, 220 Republicans out of a conference of 234 supported the Ohio Republican during the tension-filled vote on the House floor.

There were a few scattered votes for other names. GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor, frequently mentioned as a potential rival, received votes from three House Republicans. But when Cantor's name was called, he stood and loudly yelled Boehner's name – a show of unity amidst the defections.

(See the bottom of this post for a full list of Republicans who declined to vote for Boehner)

Texas Republican Louie Gohmert and Georgia Republican Paul Broun voted for defeated Rep. Allen West, the tea party favorite from Florida.

Michigan Republican Justin Amash cast his vote for Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, but when Labrador's name was called by the House clerk, he remained silent, showing his unhappiness with Boehner's leadership by abstaining.

Amash, who was recently removed by GOP leaders from the Budget Committee, reached out to urge other critics of Boehner to vote for someone else in the hopes of pushing the speaker vote to second ballot.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina, sat front-and-center in the House chamber, but didn't respond when his name was called either, as members of the press gallery spotted him from their vantage point inside the chamber. Both he and Labrador also remained on the floor the second time the House Clerk called their names to give them another chance to vote, but they didn't answer.

Freshman Texas Rep. Steve Stockman was the sole member to vote "present" – another public show of criticism for Boehner.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who has been increasingly critical of Boehner since the speaker supported his removal from the House Budget Committee, told CNN he was casting a vote against Boehner based on "past performance."

Huelskamp stood and voted for conservative Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who voted for Boehner.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, who was clearly still annoyed at the speaker after his slot on the House Financial Services Committee was taken away, went along with Amash's strategy, and voted for GAO Comptroller David Walker.

Amash wasn't pressing his fellow Republicans to get behind a particular candidate, but tried to round up enough votes for others "to see what other opportunities we might have," Jones told reporters outside the House chamber.

House GOP aides insist that they were prepared for some defections, but not enough to add up to a serious challenge to Boehner. But even though there wasn't any one viable alternative candidate who could topple the current speaker, the mini rebellion signaled that Boehner's ability to lead his GOP conference would remain a challenge going forward.

The small number of defections amounted to a tiny percentage, but it was still the largest number opposing the re-election of a House speaker in recent history.

Soon after Boehner was sworn in to the newly convened 113th Congress, he had a direct message for his colleagues about their role as lawmakers.

"We are sent here not to be something, but to do something - to do the right thing," he said, appearing emotional from the podium in the House chamber. "It's a big job, and it comes with big challenges."

Boehner also addressed the nation's massive federal debt, saying it was placing the well-being of the country in peril. Despite furious negotiations with President Barack Obama last year, and again in recent weeks as they worked to avert the fiscal cliff, Boehner was unable to develop a so-called "grand bargain" to reduce the national debt.

Despite those past challenges, Boehner told lawmakers it was their job to ensure progress gets made.

"Public service was never meant to be an easy living," he told his House colleagues. "Extraordinary challenges demand extraordinary leadership. So if you have come here to see your name in lights or to pass off political victory as accomplishment, you have come to the wrong place. The door is behind you."

The rocky finish of the 112th Congress had many of those going into the Thursday vote question whether Boehner's future might be in jeopardy. In recent weeks he struggled to get his fellow Republicans to go along with proposals to avoid the fiscal cliff, and only secured 85 votes for the final deal that passed a day after the end-of-the-year deadline.

And the day before he was nominated to his second term Boehner suffered major backlash over his decision to put off a vote on a package of assistance for Superstorm Sandy victims for weeks. After withering criticism from GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on that call, Boehner relented and scheduled a vote on some of the emergency funding on Friday.

It's unclear whether there would be any repercussions for those who so openly broke with Boehner on the first day of the new session.

Amash told reporters he wasn't worried about his standing with GOP leaders, saying "I think Congress has been marginalized, American people deserve better."

Freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, said he wasn't concerned at all after casting one of his first votes – for Cantor – against his speaker.

"It is about, we lost seats in the house, we lost the Senate, we lost the presidency. I just thought it was time for new leadership. Hey, he won, he is the Republican guy and I am going to be all behind him," Bridenstine explained.

Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who has served more than 20 years in the House and told CNN he knows Boehner well and personally likes him, summed up the scene on the House floor during the vote as "weird."

But Hastings downplayed any permanent damage to Boehner, describing those who opposed the speaker as representing just a "fringe" element.

"Republicans are crazy, but they aren't all bats**t crazy," Hastings said.

– CNN's Dana Bash, Leslie Bentz and Dan Merica contributed to this report.

REPUBLICANS WHO DID NOT VOTE FOR BOEHNER:

Rep. Justin Amash voted for Raul Labrador
Rep. Jim Bridenstine voted for Eric Cantor
Rep. Paul Broun voted for Allen West
Rep. Louis Gohmert voted for West
Rep. Walter Jones voted for David Walker
Rep. Tim Huelskamp voted Jim Jordan
Rep. Tom Massie voted for Justin Amash
Rep. Steve Pierce voted for Cantor
Rep. Ted Yoho voted for Cantor

Rep. Steve Stockman voted present
Rep. Raul Labrador did not vote
Rep. Mick Mulvaney did not vote

soundoff (351 Responses)
  1. Doc TJM

    Sounds like high school with Amash and Huelskamp acting like they didn't make "varsity" so they voted out of spite.

    January 3, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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