House Speaker John Boehner’s job is safer than it looks.
The speaker frustrated many fellow Republicans Tuesday by capitulating to Democratic demands to fund the Department of Homeland Security without reversing President Barack Obama’s November orders on immigration. Boehner even voted for the measure as more than two-thirds of his members voted no.
Still, “there is no strong view to take out the speaker,” said Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who opposed the bill.
The House ended the showdown linking Homeland Security funding and immigration policy by voting to fund the agency through September. The measure, passed with mostly Democratic support, omitted Republicans’ demand to block Obama’s orders protecting 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
There was sting to the fact that Boehner, after promising to fight “tooth and nail” against Obama’s immigration orders, ultimately allowed a vote on the plan without that language. Some conservative Republicans had warned that Boehner’s speakership could be in jeopardy if he did so.
Boehner’s allies say the math is heavily in his favor.
While 167 of the 245 House Republicans voted against the “clean” spending proposal, the number who would oust him is far closer to the 52 who derailed a three-week extension of the agency’s funding Feb. 27. It is probably even smaller than that.
Democrats’ uniform support of the spending measure let Republicans cast politically safe votes against it without putting the department’s funding in jeopardy. In essence, Democrats let Republicans off the hook.
Until their numbers grow, and until they come up with a rival to Boehner, recalcitrant Republicans stand little chance of toppling the House speaker. Their best shot was at the start of the current Congress in January, when two dozen of them voted for candidates other than Boehner.
He easily won, capturing 216 votes. His nearest competitor, Daniel Webster of Florida, tallied 12.
For all the Washington chatter of a possible Republican coup against Boehner – the perpetually tanned, cigarette-smoking deal-maker from Ohio – few lawmakers gave it credence Tuesday.
“It would take Democrat cooperation to do that, which is never going to happen,” said GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, a frequent critic of Republican leaders. The mere subject, he said, “is irrelevant.”
Heightening the party’s intramural angst were new political ads by the American Action Network, run by Boehner’s allies. They began running Tuesday in the districts of about 50 House Republicans who defied him on Homeland Security last week.
The $400,000 campaign includes phone calls, a few TV ads, and ads on popular conservative talk radio shows. They urged constituents to call their representatives, not vote them out of office.
Several targeted Republicans shrugged off the impact.
“We’re all big boys and girls, and we know that’s what you get into in this business,” Mulvaney told reporters. Still, he said, it “makes you scratch your head” to attend a meeting on Republican unity and “get a text from your office” saying a group tied to the speaker “is running ads against you in the district.”