Because of a recent scandal that damaged Republican House Whip Steve Scalise, Speaker John Boehner (R, OH) has been reduced to making personal phone calls in order to drum up enough support to be returned to his leadership role as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Normally, when a Speaker of the House wants to usher through a bill, he counts on his House Whip to help out. The Whip’s job is to “whip votes,” to cajole party members to get in line and vote the leadership’s way. This is also true when a current House Speaker wants to be re-elected to his position. He enlists the Whip to line up the votes.
But in the case of Speaker John Boehner, his Whip, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, is in the midst of a scandal that has at least temporarily made him ineffective for helping his boss regain his Speakership.
On Monday, for instance, Politico noted that Scalise is apparently too embattled to do his job.
The site reported that a lawmaker they spoke to “said the controversy over House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who publicly apologized for speaking in 2002 to a white supremacist group, has also rattled GOP members…”
Politico insisted that Boehner hasn’t been “acting panicked,” but went on to say that “on Monday evening the speaker started making calls to shore up his support.”
If the Speaker is reduced to making his own calls and whipping his own votes for support, this might be viewed by some as something of a weakness. It is certainly outside the normal process. Strong Speakers don’t generally have to whip their own votes.
Besides the fact that several members have openly announced that they are seeking his job, there are other signs that the Speaker is suffering a slump in support, too. In one case, Boehner failed to get the public and enthusiastic support of a well-respected conservative who gave the Washington Post’s Robert Costa an enigmatic reply that one could interpret as an interest in running for the Speaker’s chair himself.
Costa asked conservative Jeb Hensarling (R, TX) about the Speaker’s race, asking if he were supporting Boehner, but Hensarling refused to answer. Costa then asked the leading conservative if he would accept a second-ballot draft himself making him the Speaker. Instead of replying, Costa reported that the Congressman just smiled and walked away. This is not a glowing endorsement of Speaker Boehner either way.
Finally, the anti-Boehner faction isn’t toiling disjointedly in disparate corners of Capitol Hill, either. It seems that on Monday night they dined together, perhaps to better coordinate their efforts. This shows at least some level of shared purpose, marking their meeting as a stronger insurgency than previously assumed.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com