Republican voters nationwide overwhelmingly want their House representative to elect somebody other than Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House, a new poll from Pat Caddell’s organization Caddell Associates shows.
A whopping 60 percent of voters who voted for Republicans in the last election either definitely or probably want their member of Congress to elect someone other than Boehner on Jan. 6, when Congress convenes, according to the poll. The voters were asked: “As you may know the new Congress will select its leaders in January. If it were up to you, would you elect John Boehner to continue as Speaker of the House or would you elect someone new?”
In response to that question, 34 percent of the GOP voters surveyed said they definitely want someone other than Boehner and 26 percent said they probably want someone other than Boehner. Only 11 percent said they definitely want to keep Boehner and an additional 15 percent said they probably want Boehner to stay. So the poll says some 60 percent of GOP voters want Boehner gone, while just 25 percent want him to stay. Fifteen percent in the poll either don’t know, or are undecided on Boehner’s future.
In addition to that condemnation of Boehner, 64 percent of the GOP voters surveyed either strongly or somewhat agree that Boehner, as Speaker of the House, has been “ineffective in opposing President Obama’s agenda.” Only 24 percent either somewhat or strongly disagree. Twelve percent didn’t know.
When asked if they “trust” Boehner to “fight for the issues that are important to most Republicans,” barely more than half of the GOP voters surveyed said they did. Fifty-two percent said they either strongly or somewhat agree that Boehner will fight for Republican issues while 37 percent either disagree Boehner will fight for Republican issues or strongly disagree. Ten percent didn’t know.
When asked if Boehner “has the best interests of the American public at heart, rather than special interests,” less than half of the GOP voters answered in the affirmative. Forty-four percent said they either somewhat or strongly agree Boehner will stand up against special interests for the American public, while 43 percent believe Boehner won’t help Americans over the general public.
The poll was conducted via telephone from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30, and surveyed 602 Republican voters and independents who voted Republican in 2014’s midterm elections. It has a margin of error of four percentage points, meaning the widespread national opposition among Republican voters to Boehner’s speakership continuing is well outside the margin of error.
Boehner is seeking re-election from his Republican colleagues as Speaker on Tuesday, the first day of the new Congress. Though there is no declared candidate challenging Boehner at this time, there is an effort underway among House conservatives to rise up and challenge him using the procedure of the election. The playbook they’re using is the same playbook as the effort that failed at the beginning of the 113th Congress, one where a candidate to challenge Boehner is not needed to beat him. Essentially, Congress can’t start business for 2015 until a Speaker is elected. If enough members present and voting for a person—abstaining doesn’t work—vote for someone other than Boehner or Nancy Pelosi (who will once again be the Democrats’ candidate), then Boehner will not become the Speaker.
That kicks the election to a second ballot, a third, and so on. That means by voting for someone other than Boehner, and not abstaining, members can prevent Boehner from attaining the Speakership—and they do not risk tossing the Speakership to Pelosi by accident.
The thinking among conservatives goes that as long as they hold the line, at some point—on a second ballot, or a third or a fourth—either a viable candidate to challenge Boehner emerges, or Boehner makes serious concessions of the power he has accumulated over the years in the Speaker’s office.
It’s absolutely normal for members to attempt to do this, too, as the Congressional Research Service has actually issued reports after every significant speakership election for years.
“Each new House elects a Speaker by roll call vote when it first convenes,” CRS wrote on Jan. 4, 2013, the day after the failed Boehner coup almost took down the Speaker. “Customarily, the conference of each major party nominates a candidate whose name is placed in nomination. Members normally vote for the candidate of their own party conference, but may vote for any individual, whether nominated or not. To be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of all the votes cast for individuals. This number may be less than a majority (now 218) of the full membership of the House, because of vacancies, absentees, or Members voting ‘present.’”
Throughout the report, it details the processes necessary for a Speaker to get elected. Then it notes how in recent years, more and more members have been willing to buck their own leadership—a trend that has been commonplace throughout U.S. history, especially in the pre-World War II 1900s.
“In 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2011, and 2013, at least one Member voted for a Member of their own party who was not that party’s official nominee,” CRS wrote. “These events seem to manifest a new pattern of behavior in elections for Speaker. Votes cast for other candidates in these years seem more often to have reflected specific circumstances and events than established factions or identifiable political groupings Votes cast for other candidates in these years reflected specific circumstances and events, however, rather than established factions or even identifiable political groupings.”
It remains to be seen if a potential coup attempt—which Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) announced recently during a radio interview was being organized—will be any more successful than the last one. But if enough members hold together to get to that second or third or fourth ballot, it just might be.
Jones said he’s got 18 members together, and RedState’s Erick Erickson said while guest hosting Rush Limbaugh’s radio program recently that there were 25 members together at that point—a sign the rebellion may be growing. But because of the overwhelming Republican victories in the midterm elections, the House GOP majority has grown and more votes will be needed than last Congress to unseat Boehner. If all members of the House on inauguration day are present and voting for a person, the minimum amount of votes for someone other than Boehner necessary to force the second ballot and move to force him out of the speakership is 29 Republicans.
But, making matters worse for leadership is the recent scandal rocking the political world of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Over the past couple days, there’s been a widespread effort from the political establishment that some in conservative circles have gone along with to protect Scalise from further criticism due to concerns about the left race-baiting, but Scalise is hardly out of the woods yet.
While former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke’s longtime political hand and former campaign manager Kenneth Knight now says that Scalise spoke to his neighborhood civics association instead of the a Duke-run EURO racist event, Scalise still hasn’t answered any questions about why he even associated with Knight at all.
Knight, Duke’s top political hand, admitted during a Tuesday interview with the Washington Post to donating $1,000 to Scalise’s congressional campaign in 2008, and working actively to get Scalise elected in his 2008 campaign.
“This controversy, Steve Scalise being crucified, is unfortunate,” Knight told the Washington Post’s Bob Costa in the interview. “Steve Scalise is a good man and someone I’ve known for years and have made calls for when he ran for office. I’ve donated $1,000 to his House campaign. I’ve supported him because I like Steve Scalise and not because I’m working on behalf of David Duke, sending him secret messages. Steve was someone who I exchanged ideas with on politics. We wouldn’t talk about race or the Jewish question.”
Knight, Duke’s top political aide, was Scalise’s neighbor and said Scalise was well aware of his politics. But he doesn’t think Scalise saw him as David Duke’s top aide–just as a neighbor, even though he knew of Duke’s relationship with him.
“This all came about because I organized the EURO meeting for David Duke as a courtesy after he had moved to Russia,” Knight told the Post. “I’ve known David for 40 years so I did him a favor. As part of that, I decided to ask Steve, our local representative, to come by and say a few words before the conference started,” Knight said. “He agreed, believing it was going to be neighbors, friends, and family. He saw me not as David Duke’s guy, but as the president of our civic association.”
“Now, at the time, I was a prominent person in state politics,” Knight added. “I was on the radio, I was doing campaigns. Steve knew who I was, but I don’t think he held it against me. He knew I lived by his street and that I was active in our community. And I didn’t see a problem with having him speak.”
Knight also said that the crowd Scalise spoke to was “people who are concerned about the survival of their race.” Duke himself, in a Monday evening interview with the Post, confirmed that his operation post-KKK had a close relationship with Scalise—and that Knight regularly briefed him on issues of importance to white supremacists.
“Scalise would communicate a lot with my campaign manager, Kenny Knight,” Duke said. “That is why he was invited and why he would come. Kenny knew Scalise, Scalise knew Kenny. They were friendly.”
“I think Scalise would talk to Kenny because he recognized how popular I was in his own district,” Duke added. “He knew that knowing what I was doing and saying wouldn’t be the worst thing politically. Kenny would keep Scalise up to date on my issues.”
While Boehner and his top deputy House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have issued statements defending Scalise for the 2002 event, neither of them nor Scalise himself have answered any questions whatsoever—despite repeated requests for comment to each of them—about Scalise’s political conservations with Knight, his longtime relationship with Knight, Knight’s work for Scalise’s 2008 congressional campaign, and Knight’s $1,000 donation to Scalise’s 2008 campaign. Scalise has also kept the donation—something he could easily return to Knight at any time, even now, if he so chose—while maintaining his silence about his relationship with the former KKK grand wizard’s top political aide.
Booehner is also under fire from the right because in December, after Republicans resoundingly won the midterm elections, he and his team forced through the 1,774-page $1.1 trillion so-called “cromnibus” spending bill. Not one member of the House of Representatives had time to read the bill before it passed the House, and it materially enables President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty by providing funding for it.
And now, weeks later, discoveries about the bill’s contents are still being made. Rick Manning from Americans for Limited Government on Thursday revealed that he found that Republicans actually gave Obama $200 million more for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) than even Obama asked for. Manning writes:
After years of railing against the EPA’s attack on the American economy, failure to respond to Congressional inquiries, using fake email addresses to hide their activities and they like, the House voted to fund the Agency for the rest of the fiscal year with few constraints. Not only did they fund it, but they gave the EPA $200 million more than President Obama requested. You read that right. Obama’s environmental handmaidens who are single-handedly destroying coal production in America, and have announced a new set of regulatory attacks on other fuel sources during the Administration’s last two years are receiving $8.1 billion in funding instead of the $7.9 billion requested.
After Boehner’s leadership on the cromnibus and the Scalise scandal, Obama actually saw a spike in approval ratings. Obama’s approval ratings had been way down in the weeks leading up to the election and afterwards, but a new Gallup polling found that Obama has rebounded to just under 50 percent—he’s at 48 percent now—after working the phones alongside Boehner to get the cromnibus passed and as Republicans get hammered for the Scalise scandal’s racial implications.
So Boehner—and Scalise—may survive. But it’s a powder keg on Capitol Hill and as members return to Washington next week, it remains to be seen if they’ll light a match or douse out the flames and go back to business as usual.