With Mitt Romney's defeat and the GOP's failure to win the Senate, John Boehner is the most powerful Republican in Washington. In the past 24 hours, however, he learned anew what Edmund Burke wrote:
"In all bodies, those who will lead, must also, in a considerable degree, follow."
What happened to the 63-year-old in just the last week is striking. On Saturday night, word leaked out that he had given into the White House’s demand that he allow tax rates on the rich to snap to 39.6 percent. Immediately, conservatives were grumbling but still gave Boehner room to maneuver.
On Monday night, Boehner called Obama to inform him he would devise a plan and pass it out of the House — Plan B, he called it — because negotiations with the White House weren’t moving quickly enough.
Boehner’s in-house power structure quickly sprung into action.
His leadership team spent the past few days gathering support for the legislation — as of late Wednesday, there were clear signs that Boehner’s bill did not have sufficient support. On Wednesday night and all day Thursday, Boehner worked the House floor, personally making the case for the bill to wavering members. By late Thursday, he was sitting on the floor with Reps. Patrick Tiberi (Ohio), Tom Latham (Iowa) and Mike Simpson (Idaho) — close allies and friends, who support the speaker unfailingly.
Top Republicans remained hopeful, until late Thursday when GOP lawmakers voiced a public protest. Twenty-one Republicans voted against a spending bill to send a signal to leadership that the tax-rate bill didn’t meet their muster. It was the rank and file screaming that Plan B would not pass.
One hour and 15 minutes later, Boehner was leading Republicans into a Capitol basement meeting room to wave the white flag.
Some of the same members kicked off committees and denied leadership spots — Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Rep. Tom Price of Georgia — led the resistance.
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) put it plainly: “Nobody’s elected king in our conference.”