New Congress begins with GOP infighting

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Rep. John Boehner on Tuesday beat back a conservative rebellion and won a third and possibly final term as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In a public roll call, 25 House Republicans defected from the Ohio Republican, more than double the 12 who launched a failed coup attempt against him exactly two years ago.

{mosads}The anti-Boehner crowd’s message was simple: Don’t expect any cooperation in the 114th Congress — even with Republicans in charge of the Senate and holding the biggest majority in the House since the Truman administration.

“The American people are very upset by this leadership. I mean, I have not had this many phone calls since the shutdown of the government. It’s just unbelievable,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who voted for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and was one of the architects of the “fire Boehner” campaign.

“The 25 of us who voted the way that we did represented the frustration of the American people,” he added. “I’m surprised we didn’t get 30, to be honest with you.”

After the vote, GOP leaders sought to settle scores.

Though the Speaker vowed last year he wouldn’t seek retribution against those who opposed him, Webster and Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.) were kicked off the prestigious House Rules Committee after their votes against Boehner.

The Speaker appoints members of his party to the panel, which controls how legislation is considered on the floor. It is highly unusual for lawmakers sitting on the panel to oppose their party’s leadership.

Nugent said his staff told him of the decision after the vote. He declined further comment, saying he wanted to speak with Boehner.

Other lawmakers also suggested they were the victims of retribution, though GOP aides dismissed their claims.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a frequent antagonist of Boehner’s, said leadership stripped him of a subcommittee chairmanship after he reversed himself Tuesday by announcing he’d oppose Boehner.

And Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas), who also voted against Boehner, said he was removed as a lead sponsor of an energy bill that is heading to the floor this week.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) acknowledged there had been an “open fight” among Republicans on the House floor, but he brushed off the consequences for those opposed to Boehner.

“Our conference is going to find a way to get together, talk and heal itself, and it’s going to take us some time,” Sessions said.

In a scathing statement, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who didn’t vote for Boehner two years ago but supported him on Tuesday, described the vote as a poorly executed “mutiny.”

He criticized the members who ran against Boehner for not doing so in November, when Republicans met behind closed doors to choose their Speaker.

“That was the time to fight,” he said of the November vote. “But not a single person ran against Boehner. Not one. If they had, we could’ve had a secret ballot to find out what the true level of opposition to John Boehner was.

He added that Gohmert was not a credible candidate and would “never” be Speaker, and suggested that Webster, while a “nice guy,”  is not a true conservative given his lifetime score from conservative group Heritage Action of 60 percent.

“Would the House really have been more conservative if he had won,” Mulvaney said.

Boehner needed a simple majority of the 408 lawmakers present to secure another two years in the top job; he won 216, 11 more votes than was required.

But a dozen Republicans backed Webster, the former Florida Speaker. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) received three votes, while Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) got two votes, including his own.

Former Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) also received two votes, while Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) received one vote apiece.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) each received one vote. The Constitution allows lawmakers to vote for any U.S. citizen for Speaker.

In addition, freshman Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) merely voted “present.”

In recent history, no sitting Speaker has seen so many defections from his or her own party in the first vote of a new Congress. Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) saw nine defections in 1997, while Dennis Hastert watched five fellow Republicans cast votes against him in 2005, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) received 164 votes from her party. Four Democrats voted against her: Reps. Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Gwen Graham (Fla.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).

That’s fewer than the 20 Democrats who did not back Pelosi as their leader in 2011 after their party lost the House.

At least 18 Democrats were absent from the vote, most of them New Yorkers who were attending Tuesday’s funeral for former Gov. Mario Cuomo (D). The absentees helped Boehner, as they lowered the number of votes the Speaker needed to retain his gavel.

Boehner, who contemplated last year not running for reelection, will be looking to put Tuesday’s vote behind him as he and new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) turn their focus to their shared 2015 agenda. It will include approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, defining the workweek as 40 hours under ObamaCare and passing bills to help small businesses hire more veterans.

Boehner didn’t stick around the chamber for the dramatic roll call. But when he returned as Speaker once again, he was visibly emotional, mentioning how he teared up when he saw his biggest fans outside the chamber: the young daughters of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

In a short address, Boehner was humble and poetic.  

“As Speaker, all I ask — and, frankly, expect — is that we disagree without being disagreeable. In return, I pledge to help each of you carry out your duties. My door, of course, is always open,” Boehner told lawmakers.

Cristina Marcos and Mike Lillis contributed.

Tags Daniel Webster John Boehner Louie Gohmert Nancy Pelosi Ted Yoho

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