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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Boehner and Coups

One reason why Speaker Boehner is giving ground to the hardliners in the GOP conference is the prospect that they may stage a coup against him. Think Progress lays out the mechanics of how they could do it:  get the House to pass a motion vacating the speakership, then elect one of their own.  Democrats might be happy to join with the hardliners to oust Boehner.  But the latter part of that scenario would work only if the hardliners could secure the votes of a majority of the whole House, which is extremely unlikely.

In 1997, there was an abortive coup against Speaker Gingrich. Ironically, two participants were Boehner and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), now a senator who opposes the shutdown.  On July 16, 1997, Sandy Hume wrote in The Hill:
Last week's leadership coup took shape on Wednesday, when [Majority Leader Dick] Armey and Boehner announced in a private meeting with [Majority Whip Tom] DeLay and [Rep. Bill] Paxon that they were no longer willing to defend, or help rehabilitate, Gingrich.
Armey, said sources who questioned him on the issue, described himself as having "Newt fatigue," and not being willing "to clean up after another one of his messes." An Armey spokesperson said the "fatigue" referred to media questions about Newt's fate.
Boehner , whose relations with Gingrich had turned increasingly sour after Gingrich supplanted his leadership of House communications , was heard to say, "We all know Newt is finished. It's just a question of when" he goes. Boehner later denied it.
The leaders decided to determine the seriousness of the renegades, and after a meeting Thursday evening in Paxon's office, they dispatched DeLay to serve as an emissary in a clandestine meeting with them.
DeLay approached Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) , a leader among the burgeoning group of insurgents , on the House floor Thursday night, telling him to get the renegades together and contact him when they were ready to meet. They gathered about 11 p.m. in Graham's office and for nearly two hours discussed in great detail the methods for ousting Gingrich and the likely succession scenarios.
"They wanted to know how serious it was," said one renegade who was in the meeting. "It was the entire leadership involved. If they thought we had enough people, they would go to Newt and confront him with it. Tell him to step aside."
The other options included a vote of confidence in a conference meeting or presenting a privileged resolution on the House floor calling for the Speaker to vacate the chair. Sources say that renegades have such a resolution, carefully prepared by a GOP moderate committed to the coup effort. 
The whole thing collapsed when Armey got cold feet.