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How 'reasonable Republicans' could oust Speaker Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner has spent much of his speakership placating tea party conservatives. Now, he should worry more about the 23 mainstream Republicans who hate debt-ceiling brinkmanship and government shutdown. They could join with Democrats to oust Boehner.

By Jeremy R. Mayer / October 10, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio addresses reporters at the Capitol, Oct. 10. House Republicans are still weighing a short-term debt-limit increase. Op-ed contributor Jeremy D. Mayer writes: This deal 'won’t eliminate the debate over spending and Obamacare that will surround budget negotiations. And there’s still no guarantee the tea party...will agree to support this deal, putting [Boehner] right back in the position he is in now.'

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters


Arlington, Va.

The word in Washington this morning is that House Speaker Boehner has a deal in the works to temporarily raise the debt ceiling limit. This is good news, as it would avoid default. But it won’t eliminate the debate over spending and Obamacare that will surround budget negotiations. And there’s still no guarantee the tea party members of Mr. Boehner’s party will agree to support this deal, putting him right back in the position he is in now – reluctant to bring a bill to the House floor without the majority support of his party.

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Boehner has spent much of his speakership worried about placating tea party conservatives. But if he again bows to their demands over a short-term debt-ceiling extension, he should be more worried about those in his caucus who hate this shutdown and the debt-ceiling brinkmanship. There are at least 23 of them – “reasonable Republicans” who could join with Democrats to occupy a powerful middle ground – and even oust Boehner as speaker.

Removing a speaker has actually never been done before, but neither has America seen this level of rancorous/reckless obstructionist politics exerted by the tea party to the threat of the entire government – and even the economy. Desperate times may just call for desperate measures.

The procedure to oust the speaker gets to the floor as a privileged motion. It takes one member to put it on the calendar, and there’s really no way of stopping the motion if the votes are there to support it. Boehner, to stay as speaker, would need the support of a majority of all members present and voting.

Why would any honest Republican support such a move and risk being branded a traitor, a RINO (Republican in Name Only), or worst of all, an Obama-enabler? Recent primary elections have seen tea party candidates defeat incumbent Republicans deemed not conservative enough.

But the favorability of tea party candidates in the eyes of the electorate may be shifting. We’ve seen examples of this at the state level, in Michigan for example.

And state-level budget crises have forced radical bipartisanship, which voters have rewarded. Look at what happened in the Senate in Washington State not too long ago. Three Democrats walked across the aisle, and worked with minority Republicans to craft a compromise budget, breaking a months-long deadlock. The anger of the Democratic leadership and base was fierce. But the state benefited. And voters and editorial boards around the state sang the legislature’s praises.

Peter King (R) of New York, Frank Wolf (R) of Virginia, Charles Dent (R) of Pennsylvania, and 23 other House GOPers have already let it be known in some form that they would likely vote for a “clean” continuing resolution. What if one of them were to walk into Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office and say: “What would you give me for reopening the government? How about the speakership for me? And some committee chairs for all the other independent Republicans behind me and some committee chairs for the Democrats?”


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