Boehner’s revenge may be served cold

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner on Afghanistan: 'It's time to pull out the troops' Boehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired Boehner: Trump's claims of stolen election a 'sad moment in American history' MORE is showing mercy to his foes — but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to forgive and forget.

The Ohio Republican so far has chosen not to exact revenge against most of the roughly two dozen Tea Party Republicans who tried to overthrow him earlier this month.


Boehner, who was elected to his third term as Speaker, has said retaliation is not his style, and several of his enemies have received subcommittee gavels rather than retribution.

But while Boehner is making a show of benevolence, allies say the Speaker has other, more discreet tools to get back at the lawmakers who led the coup effort — and an entire congressional session to use them.

Working with committee chairmen, Boehner could cut off their ability to travel abroad on congressional trips. His loyalists could also skip defectors when it comes to deciding who gets to sponsor legislation moving in the House.

The Speaker can also turn off the spigot of donations that flow from his large network of political contributors, depriving the dissidents of campaign cash.

“People have got to understand whether you play sports or have a military background like me, if you work as a team, you can be successful. If you work as 247 individuals, you’re going to be crushed,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a Boehner ally who’s been urging the Speaker to take more aggressive action against the defectors.

“But I also understand the politics behind the scenes and understand that the Speaker’s going to do what’s right.”

For now, Boehner appears to believe that the right thing to do is to let things cool off.

He’s aware some of his opponents were under enormous pressure to abandon him, as hundreds, if not thousands, of phone calls and emails poured into congressional offices from Tea Party activists seeking the Speaker’s head.

And he knows full well that the grassroots activists applying the pressure were further enraged when he took quick revenge by booting two defectors — Florida GOP Reps. Daniel Webster and Richard Nugent  — from the powerful Rules Committee.

There’s concern among party leaders that any further retribution could provoke conservatives, and cause more headaches for Boehner and his allies at the very moment they are trying to show they can govern in Washington.

“The Speaker is focused on the American peoples’ priorities, especially getting our economy moving and creating more jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said when asked about whether the Speaker might pursue other types of retribution.

Still, Boehner and his loyalists were stung by the vote. Kinzinger and other allies have said dissenters should have run against Boehner in the private leadership races held right after the November election, but none did so at that time.

Boehner has said he’s having a “family discussion” with his conference to discuss what should come next. And he left open the door for Webster and Nugent to be reinstated to the Rules panel, which determines how exactly a bill will come to the floor and has two empty seats.

Immediately after the Jan. 6 vote, there had been talk that Boehner would strip more defectors of committee assignments. But Boehner’s strategy now appears to be to bring his one-time GOP enemies back into the fold.

Last week, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a Tea Party favorite who challenged Boehner for Speaker, was awarded the gavel of the Natural Resources Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine, who also voted against Boehner, was tapped to lead the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment, while another defector, Texas Rep. Randy Weber, won the gavel of that Science panel’s Subcommittee on Energy.

Weeks before he cast a “no” vote against Boehner, Rep. Mark Meadows (R) was named chairman of the Oversight Committee’s Government Operations Subcommittee. The North Carolina congressman will remain in the chairman’s post despite his vote, said Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah.).

Some GOP sources have called that arrangement unfair, given that Meadows voted against Boehner. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) held the same subcommittee gavel in the last Congress, and while he backed Boehner during the floor vote, was left without a gavel when term-limited Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) handed control of the full committee to Chaffetz.

That decision happened in December and may have had more to do with the fact that a former staffer is suing Farenthold, alleging he created a hostile work environment and sexually harassed her.

Asked whether the situation was fair, Farenthold replied: “My mother always told me if you don’t have anything pleasant to say, don’t say nothing at all.

“Mr. Chaffetz is chairman of the committee. I think it’s appropriate he choose the people who he wants,” he added. “My relationship with Mr. Chaffetz is different than my relationship with Mr. Issa.”

In a recent interview, Meadows said it would be inappropriate to talk about his discussions with Boehner or Chaffetz, but he had high praise for the Speaker, calling him “a man of integrity.”

“I trust him in terms of who he is and his love for this nation,” Meadows said.

But if Boehner’s not willing to severely punish his opponents, his friends on Capitol Hill hope that he’ll find other, more subtle ways to make life difficult for them.

Boehner and committee chairmen are responsible for approving many of the taxpayer-funded congressional delegation trips overseas, known as CODELs. They could reject travel requests for troublesome lawmakers, though other types of trips are privately funded or sponsored by the White House.

If a political foe wants to co-sponsor legislation important to his district, Boehner could reassign that bill to someone else. That’s what Weber accused Boehner of doing with his energy bill after he voted against the Speaker.

Weber’s allies also said there is a stigma associated with the 25 defectors: No one who wants to see their legislation pass the House would be willing to team up with them.

“What people are going to notice is, you’re not effective if you’re out here working as an individual,” said one GOP lawmaker who’s pushing Boehner to punish his enemies. “If I’m working on a bill, I’m not going to seek out the 25 members who voted against the Speaker.”