On Thursday afternoon, President Obama phoned from his Hawaii vacation to congratulate John Boehner (R-OH) on his re-election as Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 113th Congress.
Earlier in the day, the first act of the newly convened 113th Congress was to narrowly re-elect Boehner to the post he won two years earlier with unanimous support from the 241 Republicans in the House. When all 435 members of Congress are present, 218 votes are needed to win election as Speaker, but with two seats vacant and six members not voting, Boehner needed 214 votes of the 427 cast to win re-election.
This time, Boehner obtained only 220 votes of the 427 votes cast. The narrow seven vote margin of victory reflected the Speaker’s political vulnerabilities. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) received 192 votes. 14 votes were cast for other candidates (9 by Republicans, 5 by Democrats) and 1 member voted “present.” 6 Congressmen in attendance (3 Republicans and 3 Democrats) did not vote.
Had Speaker Boehner received 213 votes rather than 220 in the first round, a second round of voting would have followed, and some first round Boehner voters may have shifted their votes to other candidates.
Twelve of the the 233 Republicans elected in November 2012 chose not to vote for Boehner. Two Republicans elected in 2010 and aligned with the tea party, Congressmen Raul Labrador (R-ID), and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) did not vote, and newly elected Steve Stockman (R-TX) voted present. Boehner himself did not vote, but would have voted for himself if necessary.
Nine Republicans voted for other candidates. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Steve Pearce, (R-NM), and Ted Yoho (R-FL) voted for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). Paul Broun (R-GA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) voted for former Congressman Allen West (R-FL). Justin Amash (R-MI) voted for Congressman Raul Labrador (R-ID), and Thomas Massie (R-KY) voted for Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI). Walter Jones (R-NC) voted for retired United States comptroller David Walker. Tim Huelskampf (R-KS) voted for Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH).
Five Democrats voted for candidates other than Nancy Pelosi. Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) received 2 votes, and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), and Colin Powell each received 1 vote.
All four of the conservative tea party-aligned members of Congress who had earlier lost committee assignments as part of Boehner’s retribution against internal challengers chose not to vote for him as Speaker.
Both Majority Leader Cantor and Minority Leader Pelosi called President Obama immediately after the vote and informed him of Boehner’s re-election. The President’s decision to place a private call to Boehner and Boehner’s decision to accept the call was a political necessity for both men. The call was somewhat awkward for the Speaker, however, since he had only days earlier been forced to promise that he would no longer conduct private one-on-one negotiation sessions with the President, a practice that many conservative members of the Republican caucus found objectionable.