Republican Members of Congress share the frustration that voters have with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), according to well-placed sources that spoke to Breitbart Texas on condition of anonymity, but they are skeptical there is a viable alternative among their ranks this year and expect him to easily win re-election.
As Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle reported, a nationwide poll of Republican voters in late December showed that sixty percent of them “definitely or probably want their member of Congress to elect someone other than Boehner on Jan. 6.” Other poll questions revealed that 64 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that Boehner had been “ineffective in opposing President Barack Obama’s agenda,” and barely more than half “trust” him to “fight for the issues that are important to most Republicans.”
Over the past week, Breitbart Texas has spoken with several members of Congress and other sources with inside knowledge of the inner workings of Republican Congressional leadership for this story. None of them were willing to go on the record, but we did hear from multiple Representatives that they do not see any alternative candidates coming forward. There’s simply no one running, said one Congressman.
Part of the problem, according to our sources, was that no one — including Boehner — expected him to run again for Speaker, but there was a plan of succession that most assumed was a fait accompli: Boehner would step aside for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) to take his place. However, when Cantor lost his primary to Dave Brat, that plan was derailed.
Cantor’s loss was a shock to Boehner and he reacted by shoring up his grip on power and letting it be known that he would run again for Speaker. There is hope among Congressional Republicans that Cantor’s loss and continued criticism from conservative activists will inspire changes in Boehner’s leadership style, but they are not overly optimistic.
The “no one is running” problem technically changed this weekend, when Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), an Army veteran and former judge who has served in Congress since 2005, and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Florida), a veterinarian who starts his second term this month, both threw their hats in the ring.
However, according to our sources, many Congressional Republicans are still skeptical that a successful challenge can be brought against Boehner. Yoho’s short time in office and self-described “radical ideas” make it unlikely he can garner enough votes from his more senior colleagues. Experience is obviously is not an issue with Gohmert, but our sources still expressed doubt that he would be able to gather enough votes, even with multiple ballots, to ultimately win. One even had even predicted that Gohmert would get publicly involved in the Speaker’s race in some way, by either running himself for the job, or supporting another candidate. “Louie’s gonna be Louie,” our source said, noting the Congressman’s reputation for independence, and how it both endears him to the grassroots but has created friction between him and other House members in the past.
Still, nothing is certain until the ballots actually start being cast this week, and some Congressional Republicans are hopeful that the intensified media attention and public debate concerning the Speaker’s race could be a force for good, even if Boehner is re-elected. According to our sources, a major source of frustration is how Boehner communicates, both with other House members and with the American public. Within Congress, Boehner has a reputation as being abrasive at times, and while the other Republicans appreciate his skill for strategy and give him at least some credit for the continued GOP gains in the House, his reluctance to share information or delegate power outside of his immediate circle still grates some nerves. “It’s all about Boehner and his leadership team,” said one source, “Not about us…it’s a lack of respect.”
Regarding the media, in contrast with former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was very accessible to the press — in some ways, too much, making statements that he could not always back up — Boehner is the opposite extreme, making few public statements and limiting questions, often holding press conferences that are mere minutes long and then leaving immediately after delivering his prepared remarks. Republicans expect the role of their Speaker to be, at least in part, a salesman’s job, presenting the conservative agenda to the American people. But with Boehner refusing to play the role of GOP spokesman while keeping a vise-like grip on power within the House, and the 2016 Presidential primary field still very much in flux, there is a vacuum of power on the Republican side, with no one able to provide a vital counterbalance to the messages from the President or Congressional Democrats.
Despite these frustrations, our sources did not expect Boehner to face any serious challenge for Speaker, and as mentioned, none of the Representatives who spoke to Breitbart Texas contradicted that belief. The reality, according to our sources, is that Boehner has too much power over appointments and money — both in terms of campaign financial assistance that he can direct, and appropriations by Congress — for Members to be willing to risk a challenge this year. Another challenge is that the job of Speaker is highly demanding, both in terms of time and travel, far more than is required for any other Member of Congress. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) has already publicly said that he is not interested, after Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity called for him to run for Speaker and an online “Draft Gowdy” movement gained momentum on social media. Two challengers have announced — Gohmert and Yoho — but it is unlikely that many more will step forward.
An additional consideration that is weighing on Members’ minds, according to our sources, is that now that Republicans have control over both the House and the Senate, with 2016 looming, there is a strong desire to prove to the American people that they can govern. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), now the Senate Majority Whip, has spoken to Breitbart Texas about this very issue several times. There is a sense, according to our source, that at least some House Republicans view a nasty and divisive fight for the Speakership — especially with no clear challenger they are certain can truly rally enough votes to win — to be counterproductive and actually harmful to the Republicans’ long term prospects, hindering the party’s chances of winning the White House in 2016.
Accordingly, Congressional Republicans are resigned to another two years with Boehner as Speaker, but are hopeful that pressure from conservative activists and the more intense spotlight on them now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress and can actually pass legislation, plus the additional media attention now that two challengers have stepped forward, will result in more positive working relationships between leadership and the rest of Congress, and a communications strategy focused on better outreach.
The election for Speaker will take place on Tuesday, January 6th. Within days after that, one of the next key developments will be the appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which, according to Breitbart Texas’ interview with Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), will contain language specifically designed to block funding avenues for Obama’s executive orders on amnesty. Presuming that Boehner is re-elected as Speaker, the final language of that appropriations bill, and how House Leadership communicates about it, will be very telling regarding how Boehner will approach his role during these next two years.