How John Boehner could stay Speaker

Francis Rivera

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report Rep. Meadows to run for Freedom Caucus chairman Dems brace for immigration battle MORE, who plans to leave office a day before Halloween, told a group of Republican colleagues last week he had an awful nightmare.

“I had this terrible nightmare last night that I was trying to get out and I couldn’t get out,” the Ohio Republican joked, according to one of his longtime friends, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “And a hand came reaching, pulling me.”

But Boehner’s nightmare could become reality if House Republicans fail to rally around their nominee for Speaker in a floor vote set for Oct. 29.

Boehner’s deputy, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), is expected to win the nomination in a closed-door vote on Thursday. But if he can’t reach 218 votes in the formal floor vote, additional rounds of voting will be held.

And if no other GOP candidate for Speaker can secure 218, Boehner would not resign his post as Speaker.

“If you don’t put up 218, Boehner stays Speaker,” Cole explained, “because his resignation doesn’t take effect until there’s a new Speaker.

“They’ve checked with the parliamentarian about that. ... We will not be without a Speaker."

The last time the Speaker's election went to multiple ballots was 1923, when Rep. Frederick H. Gillett (R-Mass.) required nine ballots on the floor to win the Speaker's gavel, according to The Washington Post. 

McCarthy is facing Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzHouse committee launches probe into National Guard bonuses NIH needs public examination after giving millions to rogue UN agency House panel tells fed agency to stop selling recalled cars MORE (R-Utah) and Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) in the Speaker’s race Thursday. The popular Californian is the clear favorite, but there are doubts he can reach 218 of the 247 total GOP votes on the floor after he suggested on Fox News last week that Republicans created the taxpayer-funded Benghazi committee to harm Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.

It’s a major gaffe that Chaffetz and other opponents have seized on to portray McCarthy as a poor communicator for the party. The GOP leader has since tried to walk back his remarks, insisting that nothing about the panel is political.

“Nobody has disagreed that the current majority leader is short of 218. It’s just the reality,” Chaffetz told reporters this week.

Such a scenario would be a major black eye for House Republicans, so there is good reason to think that the conference will rally around its chosen candidate on the floor.

Still, given the rancorous nature of the current House GOP, a drawn-out process seems possible. Which could lead to a real-life Halloween nightmare for Boehner if he is still the Speaker on Oct. 31.