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.
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With a united Democratic caucus behind them, the rebellious Republicans would only need 17 solid GOP votes to take the speakership.Skip to next paragraph
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The Democrats would be eager for that deal, since it would allow them to gain some influence in a chamber that has been hostile to the initiatives of the minority party. And it would get the government working again, and avoid a default. And both the Democrats and these reasonable Republicans would get to share the credit.
Would those 17 Republicans willing to work with Democrats and oust Boehner be committing political suicide? Not necessarily. Many of them come from districts that don’t take kindly to tea party extremism. Peter King, for example, is a blue-collar Republican from Long Island. His constituents are practical people who support practical problem-solving.
In all but the most hard-right districts, the government shutdown is wildly unpopular. And economists are almost unanimous that a default by the United States risks a global recession, a run on the dollar, and hundreds of billions of dollars in higher interest payments for the US for decades to come.
National polls show that 60 percent of Americans blame Republicans for the government shutdown. It’s fair to assume that spearheading the solution that gets the government running again and avoids default is more likely to improve voters’ esteem of these Republicans than not.
As the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson suggested, these more moderate Republicans should adopt a moniker for their renegade caucus like “True Republicans” or “Independent Republicans.”
If a successful breakaway movement emerges, it could become, at least for the next year, a fixture in the House, the necessary part of any winning coalition if the Democrats or tea party Republicans want to pass anything. They would become the deciders, much like Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.
These rebel Republicans would also have something to show their districts: national headlines and editorials praising their judgment and daring; perhaps a chairmanship of a key committee; and a chance to continue to find workable solutions between left and right up until election day.
And out on the campaign trail, these Republicans would have great speeches: “I rose above partisan bickering, and saved America. I put country first.”
Jeremy D. Mayer is an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.