The Conservative Rebellion Against Boehner Involved an iPad

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 4 2013 9:42 AM

The Conservative Rebellion Against John Boehner Involved a GOP Lawmaker's iPad

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Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds the gavel during the first session of the 113th Congress in the House Chambers January 3, 2013

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

House Speaker John Boehner managed to hold on to his gavel yesterday but it wasn't pretty. When all was said and done, the Ohio Republican earned 220 votes from Republican lawmakers, six more than he needed to remain speaker. Nine of the 12 GOP defections cast votes for someone other than Boehner while another three opted not to vote at all. As Dave Weigel explained at the time, there were a few frantic moments during the roll call when it looked liked the House was headed for a second ballot, something that hasn't happened in nearly a century.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Politico offers us the anecdote of the day that shows the effort to oust Boehner may have been more organized than most realized at the time:

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) — who was recently removed from key committees and supported Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for speaker — sat on the House floor during the speaker vote brandishing an iPad. A message was displayed on the screen ticking off members of the House Republican Conference he hoped would oppose the sitting speaker. The title of the document: "You would be fired if this goes out."
Among the Republicans on the list were Reps. Steve King (Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Scott Garrett (N.J.), Steve Fincher (Tenn.) and Scott Desjarlais (Tenn.). All of them ultimately supported Boehner. It’s not clear that any of the Republicans on Huelskamp’s list knew they were on it, or even knew of the list’s existence.
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The anti-Boehner list was "clearly visable" to photographers and reporters covering the floor vote, according to the report. Huelskamp, however, refused to respond to questions about it, telling the Beltway outlet that he wouldn't comment on "stories that invade personal e-mails or private property."

Regardless of whether those on the list had a change of heart (of if it was really just a ploy to feign strength), the final vote tally served as something of a historic rebuke of Boehner's first term as speaker. The New York Times puts that in perspective:

Mr. Boehner received the votes of 95 percent of his caucus. Is that really that humiliating?
Judged against recent history, at least, the answer is yes. Mr. Boehner’s 95 percent support level might not seem that terrible, but the vote for speaker has historically been a fait accompli. The 12 defections Mr. Boehner suffered are more than in any other speaker’s election in over two decades. Our database shows all votes for speaker since 1991 and Mr. Boehner is just the third speaker since then to face more than one defection. And since the 102nd Congress was sworn at the beginning of 1991, no representative elected speaker has received a smaller share of his or her party’s vote.

The closest recent parallel to yesterday's vote, according to the Times, came in 1997 when Newt Gingrich was re-elected speaker with 96 percent of his party's backing.

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