The layout of the House of Representatives for the next two years is finally set. Of course, we all knew that the GOP was going to reign supreme — that was true before the 2014 midterms, and is even more true now, with the Republicans holding a decisive 58-seat advantage. But now, we know for certain who'll be sitting in front — surprise surprise, it's the same guy as before. John Boehner was re-elected as Speaker of the House Tuesday, surviving a disorganized rebellion against his leadership by over two dozen Republican representatives.
While there was a fair bit of bluster leading up to the Speakership vote, Boehner's opposition ultimately lacked anything like the foresight and cohesion to thwart him. A full 25 members of the House's 246 GOP Reps. voted against Boehner, but they couldn't settle on one viable alternative, instead casting a net so wide as to be doomed from jump — Reps. Daniel Webster (who led the field with 12 votes), Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, Jeff Duncan and Kevin McCarthy all netted votes, as did a trio of non-House members, Senators Jeff Sessions and Rand Paul, and most bizarrely, former Secretary of State Colin Powell (who also got votes in 2013).
And yes, while I admit I had to double-check, the House can elect a Speaker from outside its confines, although it's never actually happened.
As any minor-league political strategist can tell you, splitting up the vote between multiple challengers is not a good strategy for unseating an incumbent. There's no telling for sure whether some of the GOP's House membership would've been more emboldened if a genuine, credible strategy had been in evidence. But the instant that votes for people like Sessions, Paul and Powell start rolling in, to say nothing of the bloated slate of prospective House candidates, anyone who was legitimately probably got the message loud and clear: if the goal is to actually unseat Boehner, this is not a serious affair.
That's not to say it doesn't sting, however. The defections are still cause for some concern on Boehner's part, even though they failed to scuttle his tenure as Speaker. When he was reelected as Speaker two years ago, he suffered only nine dissenting votes. That means the number of people willing to publicly vote to oust Boehner has more than doubled since then, to some extent a result of his perceived cooperation with the Obama administration — his decision to bring a clean, no-strings-attached debt ceiling bill up for a vote in Feb. 2014. It was actually the most defections in a Speakership election in over 100 years, as the Washington Post's Aaron Blake notes, even though he still secured the job, and had room to spare.
It'll be interesting to see whether he navigates this upcoming terms with increased deference to his far-right critics, given this minor uprising and the Republicans' control of both Houses. But he's surely not fretting about that at this instant — he's just been reelected to his Speakership amid the Republican Party's biggest House majority in 68 years. If ever there was a time he'd want to celebrate, it's today.
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