WASHINGTON — Despite failing to take the speaker’s gavel away from John Boehner, one Republican who rebelled against his party’s leader during Thursday’s election said: “It was important to make a statement.”
“This is a matter of conscience,” Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, said off the House floor on Thursday. “This isn’t a political payback. This is a matter of conscience when you see a country falling apart.”
Jones was one of nine Republicans, frustrated with Boehner’s leadership, who voted for someone else during Thursday’s vote.
Boehner still won the speakership after getting 220 votes compared to Pelosi’s 192. But had several more Republicans voted for someone else, the body would have had to deal with the curveball of Boehner failing to win the required majority to win the office.
When his name was called during the elections, Jones announced he was voting for former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. Jones’ vote caught everyone by surprise enough that he was asked to repeat Walker’s name during the vote.
The other anti-Boehner votes from Republicans: Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and Georgia Rep. Paul Broun voted for outgoing Rep. Allen West.
Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp voted for Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash voted for Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador. Amash also won a vote for speaker from Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor won votes from New Mexico. Rep. Steve Pearce, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine and Florida Rep. Ted Yoho.
Asked why he voted for Walker, Jones said: “He could do something to get this Congress moving in the right direction to save this country from the collapse that’s ahead of us.”
In a statement provided by his office, Gohmert explained his vote for West by saying, “It certainly seems that seven years after our current leader was elected Majority Leader and with our goals now even farther away, it is time for a change from ‘business as usual.”
“Since the Constitution does not require the Speaker of the House to be a Member of the current Congress, my vote for Allen West was for a man who knows how to stand for principle and has always been faithful to those he was entrusted to protect,” he said.
Up until the vote, a conservative group aiming to oust Boehner claimed they had commitments from enough Republicans in Congress to deny the Ohio Republican the speaker’s gavel.
“I have confirmed with a group of congressmen that Speaker Boehner will not be elected speaker tomorrow,” Ron Meyer of the group American Majority Action wrote in an email Wednesday evening. “He will either resign or be forced out tomorrow.”
While that never happened, Jones hinted that Amash, whose disagreements with Boehner are well known after he recently lost a coveted committee assignment, was behind an organized effort to get Republicans to vote for someone other than Boehner.
“Justin Amash would be the one that you should speak to because I think he was the quarterback on this one,” Jones said, explaining he met with Amash on Wednesday about the speaker’s election.
Several other Republicans abstained from voting or voted present. One Republican who was present for the election, but did not vote, was Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador.
“I have no comment, but thank you,” he told The Daily Caller afterward.
Likewise, as Boehner left the House floor, he refused to answer questions about the Republicans who voted against him. He remained silent when TheDC asked if the Republicans who voted against him could be punished.
“If the leader decides he wants to punish any of the group, then that’s to me is not the definition of a leader,” Jones said. “That becomes the definition of a dictator.”