Some disaffected conservative House Republicans are planning to rebel and vote against John Boehner for speaker of the House when the new Congress convenes next week.
The official speaker’s election is set for Jan. 6., when the House will convene for a public floor vote to open the new Congress.
While the vote is usually just a formality, these conservative lawmakers are planning to vote for someone other than the Ohio Republican who has been speaker since 2011.
“Right now, I’ve been meeting with a small group, and we — about 16, 18 — and we’re hoping to have a name of a sitting member of Congress that we can call out their name,” North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones said in a local radio interview before Christmas, which was first reported by BuzzFeed.
Though ousting Boehner is seen as a long shot endeavor, the hope of the anti-Boehner bloc is for enough Republicans to deny Boehner a majority of the vote, which would cause him to drop out of the race.
These potential defectors are mostly keeping quiet about it in public, but in a posting on Twitter over the weekend, Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie of Kentucky hinted he would oppose Boehner. He posted a photo of a sign that reads: “Next Speaker Please.”
Such an attempt was tried two years ago, but ultimately failed: a group of conservatives tried to overthrow Boehner during the public vote, but only nine conservatives, frustrated with Boehner’s leadership, ended up voting against him. Organizers of that effort said more people had committed to vote against Boehner beforehand, but backed out before the vote.
And that’s part of the problem with the plan—each House member stands up and calls out the name of the person they are supporting. Members that might be inclined to vote against Boehner are afraid to do so out of fear that others will not follow through with their intentions, leaving them hanging and looking like a fool.
A conservative House aide described the current thinking among those voting against Boehner, similar to the one employed two years ago: To win the speaker’s race, Boehner needs the support of a majority of people present. If everyone in the House votes, that would be 218. The new Republican majority in the House will be 247.
If 30 Republicans vote for someone other than Boehner, under that scenario, the Ohio Republican will not have a majority and the body will have to vote again until someone reaches that threshold.
If this would happen, these conservatives hope Boehner would drop out of the speaker’s race and another Republican candidate would run for speaker.
Some conservatives are upset with Boehner over the recent budget deal, though the conservative wing of the House has long clashed with Boehner over the last few years over a variety of political issues.
During the 2013 vote, Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp voted for Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash voted for Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador and Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie voted for Amash.
New Mexico Rep. Steve Pearce, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine and Florida Rep. Ted Yoho all voted for then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and Georgia Rep. Paul Broun voted for outgoing Rep. Allen West instead of Boehner. (The Constitution doesn’t require that the speaker of the House actually be in Congress.)
Jones, a North Carolina Republican, voted for former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. His vote caught everyone in the House chamber by such surprise that he was asked to repeat Walker’s name during the roll call.
Some of these conservative lawmakers who voted against Boehner in 2013 are believed to be possible “no votes” again against him next week. But some, like Broun, aren’t in Congress anymore, and others, like Bridenstine, have said publicly they will support Boehner this time.
Some newly-elected Republican House members, like Alabama Rep. Gary Palmer, pledged during their campaigns not to vote for Boehner and have said they will follow through with their promise.
After the elections this November, Republicans gathered behind closed doors to select Boehner as their nominee for speaker. No one else was nominated to run against Boehner during that session.
“Rep. Boehner was selected as the House Republican Conference’s choice for Speaker last month,” Boehner aide Michael Steel said in an email, “and he expects to be elected by the whole House next week.”
Asked on Monday about possible repercussions for members who vote against Boehner, Steel referenced how the speaker has said publicly that there will be no punishment for those who do not support him in the public vote.
[CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the accurate number of no-votes needed to stop Boehner from winning a majority.]