Boehner tried to pitch Scalia as VP candidate
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Former Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerChaffetz calls for ,500 legislator housing stipend GOP super-PAC promises big spending in 2018 Ryan reminds lawmakers to be on time for votes MORE (R-Ohio) says he tried to persuade the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to be the GOP’s 1996 vice presidential nominee.

BoehnerJohn BoehnerChaffetz calls for ,500 legislator housing stipend GOP super-PAC promises big spending in 2018 Ryan reminds lawmakers to be on time for votes MORE, who stepped down as Speaker last year, revealed in a first-person retelling for the Independent Journal Review website that he pitched Scalia on becoming former Sen. Bob Dole’s (R-Kan.) running mate that year as a way to shake up the presidential campaign.

“Dole needed some rocket fuel,” Boehner wrote. “It was a pick nobody would have seen coming, and one with the potential to ignite the Dole campaign in a manner no one thought possible.”

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The 12-term lawmaker, who was serving as House GOP conference chairman at the time, and his chief of staff, Barry Jackson, tried to persuade Scalia over a pepperoni and anchovy pizza.

Boehner and Jackson made the argument that Scalia, one of the court’s most conservative justices, could bring an “element of buzz and excitement that had been missing” to rally the party’s base.

Scalia appeared skeptical, Boehner recalled, and questioned how joining the campaign would affect his role on the court and how the vacancy might be filled during a presidential election year.

“Scalia’s reaction was a mixture of amusement and humility, tempered by an underlying seriousness of purpose that reflected his love of country and sense of obligation to it,” Boehner wrote.  

At the same time, Boehner noted, Scalia didn’t immediately rule it out.

A couple days later, Scalia called Boehner back with his response. 

“The possibility is too remote to comment upon, given my position,” Scalia told Boehner, invoking a phrase used by former Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes.

Boehner told then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who “loved the idea,” as well as Dole himself. 

Dole also liked the idea, according to Boehner, but expressed doubt that Scalia would want to leave his place on the Supreme Court. He nonetheless kept Scalia on his list of vice presidential contenders. 

In the end, Dole chose Jack Kemp, a former House GOP lawmaker and secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as his running mate.

“We’ll never know what might have been, had a Dole-Scalia ticket been forged in the summer of 1996. But we do know our nation was blessed to have Antonin Scalia defending the Constitution on the highest court in the land for a generation,” Boehner wrote.