By Scott Wong - 11/06/14 06:00 AM EST
Tuesday’s midterm elections handed Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRepublican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare The disorderly order of presidential succession MORE and his leadership team the largest Republican majority in decades — and further insulated them from any challenges from disgruntled Tea Party members.
Earlier this fall, a handful of discontented conservatives openly discussed a plot to oust the Ohio Republican after the midterm elections. But Tuesday night’s GOP blowout looks sure to extinguish any similar ideas before the expanded conference returns to Washington next week to pick its leaders.
“We’re back to a majority as big as any of us has seen in our lifetimes,” an ebullient Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Wednesday. “It may be a hundred-year majority.”
Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) had spent the past few months feverishly stumping and raising cash for GOP candidates in a bid to grow their 17-seat majority and earn chits from colleagues who will vote to reelect them.
As election results trickled in Tuesday night, the leaders began phoning newly elected Republicans and reelected incumbents to offer congratulations, a subtle reminder of the help they gave them on the campaign trail this past cycle.
Boehner was holed up in his Capitol office Wednesday, an aide said, joining his allies in reaching out to members of the new Congress. As he does after every election, Boehner personally asked members for their support.
He is expected to announce soon that he is officially running for another term as Speaker, but that declaration is not anticipated at the news conference he will hold on Thursday, the aide said.
GOP conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) signaled Wednesday she had locked up support from a majority of the caucus. She sent an email and a personal letter to each member and member-elect seeking his or her support.
“I am running for re-election as Conference Chair for the 114th Congress because our work is not yet finished,” she wrote. “The next two years are pivotal in our shared vision for conservative solutions that will empower people; and in our shared desire to take that message to every corner of America as we change the culture on Capitol Hill.”
Walden, too, is expected to cruise to another term running the House GOP’s campaign operations. Tuesday’s lopsided victory quieted two potential rivals — Reps. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Roger Williams (R-Texas) — who had begun to make noise about challenging the Oregon Republican after questioning his fundraising ability and strategy to win races.
Williams spokeswoman Haley Graves said her boss called Walden on Wednesday to congratulate him and inform him he wouldn’t run. Williams “let him know that he is ready and anxious to continue working with him to strengthen the majority in the House,” Graves said.
But GOP leaders aren’t just touting their bigger majority, one that is likely to withstand a potentially big year for Democrats in 2016, when Hillary Clinton is likely to be on the ballot. They’re also highlighting that it’s a slightly more diverse majority, a sign Republicans are in the process of righting the ship after performing poorly among minorities, women and young people in 2012.
Two newly elected Republicans who captured Democratic-held seats — Mia Love of Utah and Will Hurd of Texas — will bring the total number of black Republicans in Congress to three. The other is Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) who was appointed to the Senate in 2013. Scott won a special election on Tuesday.
Love, who is Mormon, becomes the first black female Republican elected to Congress. Meanwhile, Carlos Curbelo, a Cuban-American and Miami-Dade County School Board member, ousted freshman Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.).
Other women elected to the conference include Barbara Comstock, who will succeed retiring Rep. Frank Wolf (R) in Northern Virginia; and Elise Stefanik, a former GOP operative who won the seat of retiring Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.). At 30 years old, Stefanik is the youngest woman to be elected to Congress.
“The Republican Party is back,” Walden said. “We’re back with the youth, we’re back with diversity, we’re back with women, and we’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve made great gains.”
Boehner and his top GOP lieutenants stumped for candidates everywhere this cycle — and they made sure their fellow members, their opponents and the media knew about it.
September took the Speaker on a tour through the deep-blue Northeast, with stops in New York for Stefanik, John Katko and Lee Zeldin; New Hampshire for Marilinda Garcia and Frank Guinta; and Maine for Bruce Poliquin. All but Garcia picked up Democratic-held seats on Tuesday.
And Boehner could point to other GOP victories in states, such as California, Iowa, Illinois and West Virginia, where he had invested time and money this fall.
McMorris Rodgers, McCarthy and Scalise also were active on the campaign trail.
In addition to his own travel, Scalise, who took over the majority whip job in August, deployed about 30 volunteers to make phone calls, knock on doors and turn out the vote in Maine, New York, West Virginia, Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, Arizona and Louisiana in the run-up to Election Day. The staffers hailed from both the offices of Scalise and his chief deputy whip, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).
“Everyone in the conference worked diligently to increase the majority and to help out their colleagues in the conference,” said Scalise spokesman Tyler Daniel.
A handful of GOP dissenters, including Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (Texas), previously told The Hill they will not back Boehner for another term as Speaker. They’ll be joined in the House by a contingent of newly elected conservatives, including Mark Walker of North Carolina and Jody Hice of Georgia, who said during the campaign they’d like to fire Boehner as well.
But the new freshman class includes many more establishment allies who will be friendly to Boehner and are virtually guaranteed to help him win a closed-door, secret-ballot leadership vote Nov. 13, a preliminary to his reaching the magic number of 218 in a public floor vote in January.
Among the new, pro-Boehner arrivals are Stefanik; Love; Iowa’s David Young, the former chief of staff to GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley; and Democrat-turned-Republican Evan Jenkins, a state senator who defeated 38-year incumbent Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.).
Even some of the 12 Republicans who voted against Boehner after the last elections had pledged to give him another two years as long as the GOP won big victories in the midterms.
The triumph on Tuesday all but assured that Boehner would win support from two Tea Party leaders and frequent critics: Reps. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.).