House Speaker John Boehner barely held onto his job atop Congress’ lower chamber on Thursday. Just how close a call Boehner had is now becoming clear.
Nine House conservatives voted for somebody other than Boehner, two abstained from voting and one voted “present.” That total of 12 Republicans who didn’t support Boehner was a stone’s throw from the required 17 to force a second ballot election – at which point several more Republican members were slated to back a competitor to Boehner’s, who would unite the party behind him or her.
Politico has reported the original list of members possibly considering defection from Boehner was longer and included Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Scott Garrett of New Jersey and Steve Fincher and Scott DesJarlais, both of Tennessee.
Politico uncovered this list because Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp “sat on the House floor during the speaker vote brandishing an iPad” with a message “displayed on the screen ticking off members of the House Republican Conference he hoped would oppose the sitting speaker.”
The title of the email message was reportedly: “You would be fired if this goes out.”
Breitbart News has confirmed that the following members were considering voting against Boehner retaining his speakership as well: Reps. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Sam Graves of Missouri, Steve Southerland of Florida, Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, David Schweikert of Arizona, Arkansas freshman Tom Cotton and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky.
Reps. Guthrie and Cotton denied to Breitbart News that they were on the list.
“Speaker Boehner was voted out of the Republican Conference unanimously and I never considered not voting for him on the House floor. I do not know where these lists originated and my proposed involvement is completely false," Guthrie said.
Doug Coutts, Chief of Staff for Rep. Cotton, asserted, "Contrary to Breitbart's reporting, Mr. Cotton did not consider voting for anyone other than Speaker Boehner, an intention he stated plainly the morning of the vote on C-SPAN's Washington Journal.
"Further, no one approached Mr. Cotton to ask his support for anyone other than Speaker Boehner, nor did Mr. Cotton engage such conversations."
Breitbart News also learned that outgoing House GOP conference chairman Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling was considering opposing Boehner. Boehner recently named Hensarling to be the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee in the next Congress.
All in all, there were more than 20 House Republicans who were considering unseat Boehner. Many of these members bailed on the movement at the last minute on the House floor.
There did appear to be at one point a chance Boehner wouldn’t regain his position during the happenings on the House floor. The Clerk of the House had reached the end of her list of names to call when Boehner reached 216 votes – he needed 217 to win re-election. As the National Review’s Washington, D.C., editor Robert Costa noted on Twitter, there were 17 Republican members either not voting, voting present or voting for someone other than Boehner. “So: In short, we were over 17 for a minute, looking at 2nd ballot, when the conservatives come to floor, save Boehner from 2nd ballot,” Costa wrote.
Then, as Costa notes, Bachmann, Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn and New Jersey’s Scott Garrett came back to the floor – after ignoring their names being called the first time during the alphabetical roll call – and voted for Boehner.
“Boehner is fine, people/ He will be reelected. Blackburn, Bachmann, and Garrett saved him,” Costa said of those conservatives saving Boehner. “What a story. What a story.”
This article has been updated to include responses from Rep. Guthrie and a representative of Rep. Cotton.