Members of the U.S. House of Representatives re-elected John Boehner as speaker a few minutes ago, as Republican insurgents fell short of forcing a second ballot. Before the vote, fifteen House Republicans including Iowa’s own Steve King (IA-04) had publicly said they would not support Boehner. In the end, 25 Republicans voted either “present” or for other speaker candidates. If all 435 House members had been at the Capitol, Boehner could have afforded to lose up to 28 Republican votes and still be elected on the first ballot. But the speaker only needs a majority of those present in the chamber, and according to Pete Kasperowicz of The Blaze, “a dozen or more” Democrats were expected to be absent while attending former New York Governor Mario Cuomo’s funeral.
The more Democrats who don’t show up, the harder it will be to stop Boehner from getting a majority, and GOP defections will likely have to get to the mid-30s to force a second vote.
I was surprised to when King nominated Florida Republican Dan Webster for speaker this morning. I had assumed he would support his longtime ally Louis Gohmert of Texas. I was also surprised when newly-elected Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) voted for Webster. Freshmen have more to lose if they get on leadership’s bad side, and Blum has incentive to act like a moderate, since he represents a Democratic-leaning district.
I give King and Blum credit for standing up to be counted. Various reports estimated that as many as 50 House Republicans might have voted against Boehner if House rules had allowed a secret ballot instead of a roll call in alphabetical order. If you don’t have the courage to say you’re unhappy with your party’s leader, you don’t belong in Congress.
As expected, newly-elected Iowa Republican David Young (IA-03) voted for Boehner. He got tons of help from the National Republican Congressional Committee in last year’s general election campaign, and he landed a seat on the House Appropriations Committee (not common for a freshman). Young has repeatedly promised to be a “voice at the table” for Iowa, not an uncompromising conservative. I’m already seeing some right-wingers complain on social media about today’s vote. Pottawattamie County GOP leaders had urged Young not to support Boehner for speaker. This is just the first of several high-profile votes that will likely fuel a 2016 primary challenge from the right in IA-03.
The lone Iowa Democrat in Congress, Dave Loebsack (IA-02), voted for Nancy Pelosi as House speaker, as did most of the House Democratic caucus.
I will update this post as needed with comments from the Iowans in Congress. Excerpts from King’s case against Boehner are after the jump. The two men have long clashed over the way King talks about undocumented immigrants, but immigration policy wasn’t King’s only beef with Boehner.
UPDATE: Added comments from Blum, Loebsack, and the Iowa Democratic Party below.
SECOND UPDATE: Chris Moody of CNN quoted Blum as saying, “I didn’t sleep much last night. Did a lot of soul searching. I’m at peace with myself.” I hope so, because Boehner is already punishing Republicans who voted against him as speaker. Today’s vote probably will not help Blum deliver for his district.
Excerpts from Steve King’s January 4 blog post at Breitbart.com: “I Will Not Vote for Boehner as Speaker.”
This oath does not say, “I will support and defend the … United States…” Our oath is a specific requirement to swear, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States…” President Obama has repeatedly plunged our nation into a constitutional crisis. No past president has so cavalierly violated his own oath and through naked political calculation, willfully violated the Constitution. When a president does violence to our Constitution, those who also take an oath to our Constitution have an absolute duty to defend it. We need a Speaker of the House who carries in his bones the conviction of our oath.
At each crisis point of conflict between President Obama and Congress, we have been admonished by our Speaker to take the high road, to pick our battles, to wait for a better time to fight on better ground. […]
By October of 2013, Congress had caved in to the demands of the president and fully funded the operations of ObamaCare. Just last month, defunding ObamaCare did not get raised as a serious debate point as the “CROmnibus” bill fully funded ObamaCare operations until September 30, 2015. Without dents or slowdowns, and without a change in our Speaker, ObamaCare is on its way to becoming permanently fully funded, even with a new Republican majority in the Senate. The substantive changes made to ObamaCare were almost exclusively a result of President Obama assuming Article I authority, mostly without a peep out of Republican Leadership.
Barack Obama also arrogantly rewrote immigration law from the Oval Office at the expense of Congress, the Constitution, and our sovereignty. Again, almost without a peep out of Republican Leadership. Our Founding Fathers presumed that each of the three branches of government would jealously preserve, protect, and defend their Constitutional authority. It takes a Speaker who both understands and believes his sworn duty is to use all the powers of his office to defend and restore the proper constitutional balance of powers. Instead, our Speaker has placed Obama’s executive amnesty on the path to permanent full funding.
Conservatives have seen their initiatives blocked by the Speaker while he twisted arms for Obama. Our national debt is over $18 trillion. ObamaCare is fully funded. Obama’s executive amnesty is fully funded until February 27 without leverage to block the president’s lawless immigration policy thereafter. Constitutional conservative’s efforts to defend and restore the Constitutional authority of Congress are blocked by the Speaker.
Rod Blum released this comment on January 6 regarding his vote for Daniel Webster as House speaker:
I was elected by Iowans to stand up to the status quo in Washington, DC, and I refuse to turn my back on them with my first vote. While I know Speaker Boehner is a good man and I respect the job he has done as Speaker, I must follow the will of the Eastern Iowans who rejected politics as usual in November and are calling for change in DC. With Congressional approval ratings at historic lows, it’s time for our elected officials to listen to the people and rethink business as usual so we can move our country forward together.
Iowa Democratic Party press release:
Who Does Rod Blum Look to as a Leader in the US House? Steve King.
Des Moines – Rod Blum took his seat today as the new Congressman representing the 1st district of Iowa, and already we are seeing whom he will look to for guidance and leadership during his time in Washington – Congressman Steve King.
Tea Party Extremist Steve King – best known for his incendiary comments on immigration, health care, and minorities voted for Daniel Webster for Speaker of the House. When it came his turn to vote, Blum voted for Webster as well.
“It is disappointing to see that within minutes of taking his oath of office, Rod Blum is already cozying up to extremists like Steve King,” said Iowa Democratic Party spokeswoman Christina Freundlich. “Iowans deserve real representatives in Washington who will take their job seriously and do what is right for our state and nation. Quite frankly, Iowans deserve better than these two Congressmen.”
Press release from Representative Dave Loebsack:
Loebsack Statement on Beginning of 114th Congress
Pledges to continue fight to grow the economy, expand the middle class and make education available to everyone
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement after he was sworn in at the beginning of the 114th Congress. Loebsack, who began serving in 2007, is beginning his fifth term serving the people of Iowa’s Second Congressional District.
“As the new Congress is sworn in, I am honored to be given the opportunity to continue my work on growing the economy, fighting to expand the middle class and ensuring everyone has access to the education they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce. In the nearly 500 events I held around Iowa last year, the one thing that remained constant was the desire of the people for Congress to put aside its political bickering and come together to move our nation forward. The beginning of this new Congress provides us an opportunity to do just that. I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Iowa.”
As the new congress convenes, Loebsack will now serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He will continue to have two district offices, in Davenport and Iowa City, and will remain in the same office in Washington.
Davenport District Office
209 W. 4th Street
Davenport, IA 52801
Toll Free: 1-800-914-4692
Iowa City District Office
125 South Dubuque Street
Iowa City, IA 52240
Toll Free: 1-800-914-4692
Washington, D.C. Office
1527 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515