Since the beginning of his speakership, John Boehner has been trying to find a middle ground between his conservative flank in the form of the Tea Party and the GOP’s more moderate faction. Boehner has become known for an unusual style of leadership, described as hands-off and willing to let the groups fight. A new story from Politico, however, indicates that his method might be changing.
Back in 2012, Boehner faced a very rowdy and heated caucus when it came to his re-election as speaker of the House. Nine Republicans voted for someone else while Congressman Steve Stockman voted present. Both Congressman Mick Mulvaney and Congressman Raul Labrador refused to vote. This revolt by members of his own party slightly embarrassed the speaker as he narrowly avoided a second ballot: he received 220 votes, barely enough to cross the necessary 218 threshold.
As Republicans are expected not only to keep control of the House this election cycle but ambitiously push for more seats (the NRCC has a goal of 245 seats, an increase of thirteen), Boehner is looking to consolidate his power over the caucus. Already weakened by party infighting, especially after the debt ceiling debate, and faced with the growing ire of many Tea Party conservatives, Boehner is moving to stop another embarrassing vote of no confidence.
According to Politico, the speaker and his allies, after being, “caught flat-footed,” by the conservative defections, are trying to stifle the opposition. While it’s noted that many of his detractors are gone—“Texas Rep. Steve Stockman and Georgia Rep. Paul Broun both lost primary races for Senate seats”—and that Republicans are “working to boost the GOP challenger to Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.)” who also voted against Boehner, some doubt remains.
Still, despite the easing of opposition, Boehner’s allies are hard at work securing his flank, “such as trying to change GOP Conference rules to punish members who do not support the party’s nominee during a floor vote.” Famously several conservative congressmen lost chairmanships or spots on committees after the 2012 vote. While the speaker’s office puts forth a confident face, its actions say otherwise.