In what can’t come as a surprise to anyone, John Boehner was re-elected speaker of the House this afternoon. Out of 408 votes cast, he received 216 — four fewer votes than in 2013, but almost a dozen more than he needed to retain the gavel.
What was surprising, however, was the inclusion of some names on the list of votes for Boehner. All 10 of Georgia’s Republican congressmen backed the speaker, including a pair of freshmen — Barry Loudermilk and Jody Hice — who said during last year’s campaign they would oppose him.
I’ve already seen some outrage about their votes in particular from tea partyers on Twitter. To which I can only say: I don’t get it.
You can make the case Boehner is not the most effective speaker. You can make the case he’s not the most conservative speaker. You can make the case he’s too willing to deal with President Obama.
What you can’t do, in my mind, is make the case Boehner was ever going to lose today’s vote — or that the constituents of Hice, Loudermilk and others would have been best served by a symbolic vote against the speaker.
About the former: According to reports I saw, there were about 15 publicly declared “no” votes among Republicans going into the vote. In the end, 25 Republicans did vote against Boehner. But it would have taken 12 more defections simply to force a second round of balloting. There were some surprises in Boehner’s camp, but not 12 of them.
Now about the latter: There is no legislature I have ever covered or heard about in which angering the leadership is a fruitful strategy. There are too many ways the leadership can reward or punish members, particularly newly elected ones. Such as this:
Like it or not, that’s reality.
You may not care whether Hice, Loudermilk or anyone else gets fund-raising help for their re-election efforts. (Frankly, I don’t either.) You may care more about whether they have a chance to serve on committees, work on legislation and otherwise find ways to advance the causes they championed. Replacing the speaker is not, in and of itself, a cause — not least because, with Obama in office for two more years, there’s only so much Republicans can do from Congress.
Republicans in Congress will have chances over the next two years to advance the causes of limited government, fiscal responsibility and individual liberty. But the best thing they can do for those causes beyond January 2017 is to show the American people they deserve a chance to govern with one of their own in the White House. I fail to see how another vote or two against Boehner today would have helped with that, either.