By Tony Perkins
Americans picked their leaders back in November — and today, it’s the House’s turn to decide who leads them. For the 114th Congress, the first vote may be their most important one: choosing the chamber’s Speaker. For two terms, that job has belonged to Ohio Congressman John Boehner, a man who’s had a difficult job trying to lead a diverse majority.
But as his party grows more conservative, a number of Republicans think he’s compromised too much too soon in key debates over government spending, illegal immigration, and ObamaCare. Now, after three weeks at home with angry voters (who couldn’t believe the GOP’s capitulation to the White House after the election rout), what seemed like a done deal — the Speaker’s re-election — is anything but.
Under the 114th Congress, it would take 29 Republicans splitting with Boehner to kick off a second round of votes and potentially dislodge the Ohioan. Some conservatives tried to replace Boehner in 2013, when a group of them lined up to oppose his speakership, but ultimately fell short. This time around, his challengers are picking up steam, as a number of Republicans (old and new) are publicly rebelling against the status quo and the leader they blame for the trillion-dollar failure of the CRomnibus.
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Rookies like Dave Brat (who knows a little something about unseating the Establishment) made it clear that he’s coming to Washington to fix problems — not perpetuate old ones. Like the rest of his colleagues, Brat has been getting an earful from his constituents about their frustration with House leadership — whose latest refusal to deal with the President’s amnesty order sent voters over the edge. “…I do not cast this vote for Speaker as an individual,” Brat wrote in a fiery op-ed, “but on behalf of the citizens of Virginia’s Seventh District who sent me to Washington to act as their representative. While I like Speaker Boehner personally, he will not have my support for Speaker. Washington is broken in part because our party’s leadership has strayed from its own principles.”
And Republicans agree. An overwhelming number of GOP voters — 64 percent — believe Speaker Boehner has been “ineffective in opposing President Obama’s agenda,” hardly a ringing endorsement for business as usual in the U.S. House. Another 60 percent were ready to clean out the leadership’s offices and replace Boehner as Speaker. Only 11 percent said they “definitely” wanted to keep him — giving new legs to the effort to oust Boehner and put the gavel in the hands of a conservative.
So far, a handful of Republicans are throwing their hat into the Speaker’s ring, including Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla). “There have been numerous examples of problematic leadership,” Louie said Sunday on Fox, “but we were hopeful our leaders got the voters’ message. However, after our Speaker forced through the CRomnibus by passing it with Democratic votes and without time to read it, it seemed clear that we needed leadership… At this point, the Speaker’s election is not about a particular candidate. It is about whether we keep the status quo or make the change the country demands.”
As the old adage goes, elections have consequences. If we want to experience the change voters wanted in November, Congress needs a change of direction. Today, we stand with the conservatives who are standing with the American people in demanding the bold new leadership this country needs.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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