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Conservatives Say Boehner's Job Is Safe, for Now

Conservatives Say Boehner's Job Is Safe, for Now

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - October 16, 2013

As House Speaker John Boehner prepares to take up a measure Wednesday night that is expected to pass with a majority of Democratic support, conservatives who have opposed him in the past say his job isn't in jeopardy.

"I've actually been really proud of Speaker Boehner in the last 2½ weeks," said Rep. Raul Labrador, who voted with several others in a failed attempt to overthrow the Republican leader in January. “I don’t think Speaker Boehner has anything to worry about right now.”

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the former chair of the Republican Study Committee, said there is “absolutely no talk” of kicking Boehner out of his job.

Instead, Labrador said, some of his other GOP colleagues should be the ones to go.

“I don’t think he should be ashamed of anything that he has done,” the Idaho congressman told reporters. “I’m more upset at my Republican colleagues. It’s been Republicans here who apparently always want to fight but they always want to fight the next fight. That has given Speaker Boehner the inability to be successful in this fight. So if anybody should be kicked out, it’s probably those Republicans.”

After GOP leadership failed to garner enough support for an alternative budget plan, Boehner decided to move ahead with Senate legislation, advanced by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, that would fund the government through mid-January, lift the debt ceiling into February and establish a conference committee on taxes and spending by December.

The Senate is slated to pass the measure Wednesday night, and House Republicans will then take up the bill with the help of Democrats. This scenario is familiar: Boehner took a similar approach with a measure to avert January 1’s so-called fiscal cliff of spending cuts and revenue increases. Only 85 Republicans voted for that plan, which divided House leaders. Its detractors criticized the measure for what they saw as a tax hike. Later that month, Labrador and others opposed Boehner’s re-election to his leadership post.

Some conservatives see the current situation as slightly different. Boehner acceded to their wishes to tie defunding of the health care law to the continuing resolution, even when he had wanted to have the Obamacare fight on debt ceiling negotiations. With options now exhausted, Boehner is moving forward with the Senate plan in order to keep the nation from defaulting on its debt obligations.

Still, others aren’t exactly convinced the GOP had no cards to play. Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp said he is “disappointed in the lack of efforts [by] our leadership” on Tuesday, noting they did not whip for his vote. “The key point yesterday was when they said they're not whipping anything. ... Tom DeLay would roll over and say that's not the way you run a House if you would like to get something done.” Asked if Boehner and others should be penalized for this, Huelskamp suggested now is not the time for a coup. But, he warned, “for folks that are running for speaker next time, I think we will recall, well, what role did you play in this?”

In fact, the Kansas lawmaker defended Boehner somewhat by criticizing moderates in the conference: "It's pretty hard when he has a circle of 20 people who stand up every day and say, 'Can we surrender today, Mr. Speaker? Can we just go away? Can we make it easy?’ Whine and whine. I wouldn't say a surrender caucus, it's a whiner caucus. All they do is whine about the battle as if they thought being elected to Washington was going to be an easy job."

Members who had been critical of Boehner for the votes on the fiscal cliff and other measures this year (including Hurricane Sandy relief and the Violence Against Women Act), had praised him in recent weeks for keeping the fragile conference together, even amid a flailing strategy. But they have warned Boehner against breaking the so-called Hastert Rule, which they interpret as bringing a bill to the floor only if it has support from a majority of Republicans.

While they aren’t threatening Boehner’s job at the moment, conservatives are not happy about the Senate bill they will be voting on later Wednesday.

Asked at a Heritage Foundation event Wednesday afternoon whether they would back the measure, the handful of lawmakers on the dais simply laughed. “I don’t even want to look at it,” South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney said.

Those members conceded that the establishment wing of their party has won this battle, but promised to continue the fight against the health care law when the next budget deadline arrives. By then, “the Obamacare experience will be even more stark for the American people,” Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis asserted. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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