Several conservative House Republican members are contemplating a plan to unseat Speaker John Boehner from his position on January 3, Breitbart News has exclusively learned. Staffers have compiled a detailed action plan that, if executed, could make this a reality.
The Republicans, both conservatives and more establishment members alike, are emboldened after the failure of Boehner’s fiscal cliff “Plan B” on Thursday evening. Dissatisfaction with Boehner is growing in the House Republican conference, but until now there hasn’t been a clear path forward.
Those members and staffers requested anonymity from Breitbart News at this time to prevent retaliation from Boehner similar to what happened to those four members who were purged from their powerful committee assignments a few weeks ago. Their expressed concern is that if Boehner knew who they were, his adverse reaction toward them would be much more brutal than losing committee assignments, such as a primary challenge in 2014 by a leadership-sponsored candidate.
The circulated plan is a comprehensive multi-step process.
According to the plan as drafted, the first step is to re-establish the election of the Speaker of the House by secret ballot, rather than by a public roll call vote. That’s because the members who would oppose Boehner, if there ended up not being enough votes to achieve their desired result or if Boehner scared via threat or coaxed via prize some of the opposition into voting for him, would be sitting ducks for retaliation in the near future.
As one hill staffer considering this path told Breitbart News, the members involved in an unsuccessful coup d’etat would be “toast.”
To establish a secret ballot election for Speaker of the House, one Republican member will need to step forward and introduce a resolution on the House floor on the morning of January 3, 2013, before any other business takes place. Those close to this plan are convinced that a member will step forward and introduce this resolution.
On January 3, the House of Representatives will convene for the first order of business for the 113th Congress. Normally, the first order of business is for the House to elect a Speaker.
But if a member introduces that resolution for a secret ballot, the whole House will vote on that first. That vote will need to have a public roll call, meaning the American people, the press, and Boehner will know who voted which way. Even so, those who are considering this path forward to unseat Boehner know that Boehner and other establishment Republicans can’t legitimately oppose the concept of a secret ballot election for a leader of a political body.
Why’s that? In a 2009 op-ed Boehner himself wrote for U.S. News and World Report, the then House Minority Leader bashed unions for their failure to employ secret ballot elections to protect those voting. Boehner’s op-ed was an attack on the Democrats’ Employee Free Choice Act, also known as “card check” – legislation that would have hurt the sacred concept of elections so badly that, in Boehner’s own words, “it would leave them [workers voting in union elections] open to coercion and intimidation.”
Card check legislation would have made unionization elections public – meaning everybody involved would know whether employees voted in favor of or against unionization. Boehner called such elections “undemocratic” because even “all 535 members of the United States Congress hold their offices thanks to a secret ballot.”
Boehner’s op-ed helped kill the Democratic effort for card check, as he warned that some who have “spoken passionately in favor of secret-ballot elections” have done so “only when it serves their interests.” Those hill staffers who drafted this plan note in their planning documents that a secret ballot against Boehner “is likely the ONLY WAY the Speaker can be ousted,” and find it ironic that the election for House Speaker isn’t done by secret ballot right now.
At the beginning of the Congress, the House will only have one officer: the Clerk of the House. House rule documents compiled by those staffers considering this plan show that the Clerk of the House is required to keep the legislative body’s secrets. The clerk takes an oath to “keep the secrets of the House.”
Since at that point the House would have just passed a resolution requiring who votes for whom as Speaker to be secret, the Clerk – who would keep track of such a vote – would be required by his oath of office to keep the roll call secret.
If a secret ballot election for House Speaker is established, step one of this plan against Boehner is complete.
The second step of the circulated plan would require enough GOP members to band together and vote for somebody other than Boehner as Speaker. Since Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., has resigned his position, there will be 434 voting members on January 3. For someone to win the Speaker election, they’d need to secure 217 votes – or a majority of everyone voting.
Since there are 233 Republicans heading into the next Congress, only 17 Republicans would be needed to unseat Boehner. The House would continue having multiple elections throughout the day on January 3 until it agreed upon a new Speaker.
Republicans need not worry about handing the Speakership over to Nancy Pelosi or some other Democrat in this process, either. “Don’t worry about Speaker Boehner losing GOP votes in a secret ballot,” the House rule document compiled by staffers obtained by Breitbart News read.
It is still not possible for Pelosi to become Speaker even with 100 % of Democrats united behind her and a split GOP vote. The reason is to become Speaker it is not enough to win a plurality. One must win an absolute majority of all votes cast for an individual.
So even if all 201 Democrats vote Pelosi, Boehner gets 1 vote, and the remaining 233 Republicans each vote for a different individual, Pelosi does not win. Pelosi would need 218 to reach a majority of the 435 votes cast for an individual. Since Republicans have a 33 vote advantage in the House, the only way Pelosi wins is if 17 Boehner opponents affirmatively vote Pelosi or abstain rather than simply vote for an alternative candidate. Both these scenarios are easily avoided.
The same argument applies if fewer than 435 Members show up to vote. The magic number would be less than 218 but Pelosi still cannot get there so long as there are more Republicans in the room than Democrats and they don’t abstain or voter [sic] for her.
Those planning to oust Boehner know that there will likely be multiple elections taking place next. They expect to have a series of elections in the House throughout the day on January 3, as they’re pretty sure they won’t get a new Speaker on the first try.
If Boehner loses on that first election try, he’ll be battered. For now, this is a leaderless movement – an “Anybody but Boehner” charge. But after that first secret ballot election wouldn’t have earned him his speakership back, those planning this ouster expect viable alternatives to emerge at that point.
One of those alternatives, they think, will unite the party and take the speakership.
If these conservatives aren’t successful in removing Boehner – but get close – they expect Boehner to cave and give them several concessions. Those concessions would include “that Boehner should move for it himself to decentralize power to the members, re-establishing trust and his legitimacy as the leader of the party.”
They argue Boehner might be able to reach those concessions by allowing committee chairmen to bring resolutions and legislation to the House floor for votes, and by stopping his continual dealing with President Barack Obama outside the regular order of House business through the committee system.