Florida Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis dodged and ducked as his constituents pushed him at a Jan. 3 constituency meeting to vote against the re-election of House Speaker John Boehner.
“Are you going to vote for him or not? I mean, that’s the question,” a Florida constituent asked DeSantis at the meeting in Palm Coast, Fla. The Daily Caller obtained video of the exchange.
DeSantis tried to deflect the pressure, partly by suggesting that no major rival to Boehner has emerged before the first ballot, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 6, and also by suggesting that Boehner has enough votes to win.
But the constituent pushed back, even as DeSantis said an anti-Boehner vote would provide no gains.
“I’ll tell you what it does. It gives you some political capital with people like us. Even if you lose once or twice, at least we know you are fighting for us,” he said. “But when you say ‘Oh, if I don’t vote for it,’ then you’re not fighting for us. What you’re doing is you’re bending. We didn’t put you there to bend.”
DeSantis’ press aide did not return calls from TheDC.
DeSantis tried to evade the constituent pressure by saying he would vote for South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, but Gowdy has already declined to run.
“You’ve got to have pieces in place and you’ve got to have good candidate step forward,” DeSantis said.
However, the first ballot is a vote of confidence by the GOP majority in the House leader, not the selection of a replacement. Potential candidates would step forward if Boehner doesn’t have the confidence of his caucus.
DeSantis also downplayed the opposition to Boehner. “I don’t think you have 30 votes. … I think you’ll have 10 to 12, 15,” he said.
By midday Monday, 10 Republican legislators have publicly said they will oppose Boehner. The opponents include Virginia Rep. Dave Brat, who defeated Rep. Eric Cantor, the GOP’s majority leader in a shocking June 2014 primary.
Boehner may lose the first ballot, but he will likely win a subsequent ballot, DeSantis said. “He’s not going to just go back to Ohio if he lose the first ballot. They are then going to try and flip votes … [and] you still need to get a majority of Republicans to embrace somebody,” DeSantis said.
But if Boehner loses the first ballot, rivals such as Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling may declare themselves and start bidding for votes from other legislators, including DeSantis. The formal emergence of rivals would make it very difficult for Boehner to win the needed 218 votes in subsequent ballots.
After the first ballot, “another candidate can step up,” the constituent told DeSantis.
Boehner’s aides have admitted to trusted media sources that Boehner may not win the 218 votes that are needed to win the first ballot. “Boehner vote-counters say they will stay on the floor until he gets the majority of GOP support,” according to an article by Politico.
Boehner does have enormous sway, party because he can award and take away coveted leadership posts. For example, DeSantis was named Dec. 5 as vice chairman of the constitution and civil justice subcommittee, which is part of the House Judiciary Committee.
But DeSantis’ constituent understood the byzantine election process. “You’re worried about your chairmanship, you’re worried about other things, you’re worried about influence in Congress,” the constituent said. “That’s not why we elected you. We elected you because we believe in the values you said you believed in.”