Washington loves talking about House Speaker John Boehner getting booted. But we’re three years into that conversation, and he’s still here.
Leaders in the House and Senate have neither finalized a deal nor voted on a bill to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government, but commentators are already talking up a predictable topic: Will the mess that has been the last few weeks of budget talks cost Boehner his gavel.
David Corn, of the liberal magazine Mother Jones, wrote the story “How John Boehner Could Lose His Speakership” on the day the government shut down. He explains:
He would lose his speakership because the tea party House GOPers pushing for confrontation would rebel. Without the support of the 30 or more die-hard conservatives, Boehner would no longer command a majority within the House, and his gavel would disappear.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan said Boehner was “speaker in name only.”
Even the liberal group American Bridge 21st Century got in on the action, starting a website, speakercruz.com, after it looked like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was calling the shots for House Republicans.
Cable-news hosts are already asking guests whether Boehner keeps his seat. Many of the journalists who answer haven’t fallen into the trap just yet: on Wednesday, both The Atlantic’s Molly Ball on MSNBC and the National Review‘s Robert Costa on CNBC said they did not foresee Boehner losing his gavel after this current crisis gets resolved.
This isn’t the first time that Boehner’s speakership has been supposedly at risk.
When Boehner supported President Obama on military action in Syria, conservative commentator Glenn Beck said on his radio show he should lose his job:
Let me tell you something: John Boehner should lose his speakership, and the people of Ohio should rise up and apologize to the rest of America. This guy is actually advising the president on how to attract Republicans to his case. He’s advising the president.
During the House immigration debate in June, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said Boehner could lose his job if he brought a bill to the floor that didn’t have majority Republican support.
In the midst of the debate surrounding sequestration in February, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Boehner could lose his speakership if he allowed tax increases in any deal to stave off the massive, across-the-board cuts:
I don’t quite honestly believe that Speaker Boehner would be speaker if that happens. I think he would lose his speakership.
Following the fiscal-cliff deal in January, where Boehner and House Republican leaders agreed to some tax increases, conservatives in the House threatened to unseat Boehner at the start of the session. Here are some of the headlines in the run-up to that vote:
The American Prospect: “Will John Boehner Lose the Speakership?”
Brietbart: “Enough Republicans Willing to Unseat Speaker Boehner”
Politico: “Has John Boehner lost control?”
After all that, Boehner kept the gavel.
And if conservatives are hopeful of ousting Boehner before the next session of Congress, they don’t have history on their side. In the history of the House, a speaker has never been ousted from his or her job, though Speaker Joseph Cannon did have a similar insurrection in 1910 and almost lost his speakership.
What is clear at this moment is that talk about Boehner’s speakership is not going away any time soon. And Washington loves this story.