Boehner reelected as Speaker; nine Republicans defect in vote

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) was reelected Speaker of the House on Thursday after a week of rumors of a possible GOP revolt. 

Boehner won a bare majority in a vote that saw nine Republicans vote for other GOP members, and several others who abstained from voting or voted "present." Two years ago, Boehner won all 241 available GOP votes.

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In a vote that opened the 113th Congress, Boehner received 220 votes, compared to 192 for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader. Fourteen members voted for other candidates or present. Boehner needed 218 votes to win reelection assuming a full roster of 435 members voted, but only 426 voted, so he only needed 214 votes.

Defectors from Boehner included Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who voted for Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and two freshmen, Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), all voted for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), but Cantor himself voted for Boehner.

Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) voted for outgoing member Allen West (R-Fla.). Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) voted for former Comptroller General David Walker. Speakers of the House do not have to be members of the House, although historically they all have been.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) voted for Amash, and Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) voted for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

Boehner was reelected just days after facing one his toughest tests as Speaker of the House — the negotiations over the fiscal cliff. 

The final will add $4 trillion to the debt, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and it won the support of a minority of Boehner's conference who criticized the measure for a lack of spending cuts. 


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In his remarks shortly after the vote, Boehner emphasized the need to reduce government spending and debt, saying future generations would have opportunities only if lawmakers worked to break free of the national debt. 

"Our government has built up too much debt. Our economy is not producing enough jobs," Boehner said. "These are not separate problems. 

"At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of state," he said. "The American Dream is in peril so long as its namesake is weighed down by this anchor of debt. Break its hold, and we begin to set our economy free. Jobs will come home. Confidence will come back. We do this not just to boost GDP or reduce unemployment, but to secure for our children a future of freedom and opportunity. Nothing is more important."


Boehner's next great challenge as Speaker is likely to be a vote to raise the nation's $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, a vote that could come in the next two months. After coming under fire on the fiscal cliff talks, Boehner is under heavy pressure to win significant spending cuts as part of that deal.

Pelosi, who had already been elected minority leader, won all but a handful of Democratic votes on the floor. Two years ago, 19 Democrats voted for other Democrats. This time five Democrats voted for other figures, including Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who cast his vote for former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Boehner this week has come under criticism not only for the fiscal cliff, but for a Hurricane Sandy relief bill. 

Republicans from the Northeast took to the House floor Wednesday and Thursday to scold Boehner, saying he should be ashamed for delaying a vote on the bill. 

That fight led Reps. Pete King (R-N.Y.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) to say they might not vote for Boehner as Speaker. But by Wednesday afternoon, Boehner said the House would vote on a $9 billion aid package, which seemed to defuse the issue. 

Both King and Grimm voted for Boehner as Speaker on Thursday. Without the change, it's possible Boehner could have seen more defections that might have required the House vote to go to a second ballot.

This story was updated at 2:07 p.m.