It’s no secret that tea party activists are unhappy with the debt-ceiling proposal put forth by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. But at least one group is taking it a step further, suggesting that they eventually funnel their resources into ousting him.
Of the tea party activists polled via Facebook and e-mail, 74.1 percent either "definitely" or "maybe" want a new speaker, Tea Party Patriots cofounder Jenny Beth Martin said at a Christian Science Monitor press breakfast on Wednesday morning. “The reason we asked is because people are bringing it up to us,” she added.
“Maybe we should see about a different speaker,” Martin said. “Maybe we should see about a new speaker right away.”
The fiscal conservative insurgents helped make Boehner speaker by giving Republicans a House majority, but his establishment roots and history of compromising with Democrats have made him suspect among tea partiers. The Wednesday morning comments by tea party leaders, however, represented the first clear signal that they might try to dethrone him.
“Boehner’s been around for a long time and is part of the old guard. And people are looking for a new way of doing things in Washington, D.C.,” said Mark Meckler, cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots. Speaking with National Journal after the breakfast, he pointed to Boehner’s negotiations earlier this year on a continuing resolution to keep the government operating as the catalyst for the unrest.
“People were very angry after the continuing resolution,” Meckler said. “And when I say people, I mean people inside the [Republican] caucus, too. They feel like they got mislead, feel like they got hung out to dry, got their arms twisted into a bill of goods which is now being held against them. And it was the leadership that led them down that road; now I think people across the country feel like we’re being led down that road again. And I know some people in the caucus feel that way right now, and there could be calls for new leadership.”
Not all tea partiers agree, however. Movement favorite, Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., said he would back the speaker’s plan even though it’s not 100 percent consistent with his values.
Martin agreed that the focus right now should be on solving the debt ceiling dilemma. But she said her group will continue to poll, and promised that should dissatisfaction with Boehner linger, “we’ll go back and revisit it.” The problem, Martin continued, is that “nobody seems to have a solution about who they would want as a different speaker.”
Both Martin and Meckler lauded Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, for accelerating their values on Capitol Hill, but they agreed she shouldn’t reconsider a run for House leadership. Last year, she ran briefly for chair of the House Republican Conference but dropped her bid.
“Right now, she’s running for president, which is enough of a job,” Meckler said. “I don’t think she could effectively lead the caucus while running a presidential candidacy. I can’t speak for what our people would think about it. Again, she’s definitely aligned with our values, but people are looking for someone who has the time and energy to lead our caucus."
This article appears in the July 27, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.