Boehner Re-Elected Speaker Despite Dissenting Votes

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

WASHINGTON -- Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio was re-elected speaker of the House on Thursday despite some unrest among Republicans about his handling of the fiscal negotiations with the White House and his decision to call off a vote on hurricane relief.

As the 113th Congress convened just after noon, Mr. Boehner weathered some protest votes from the rank and file to defeat Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, by a vote of 220 to 192. Other candidates drew a total of 14 votes.

"Public service was never meant to be an easy living," an emotional Mr. Boehner said after he took the gavel from Ms. Pelosi, referring to the tough decisions facing Congress. "Extraordinary challenges demand extraordinary leadership."

But in a long, pomp-filled roll call vote, nine Republicans voted against Mr. Boehner, and a handful of members refused to vote, signaling that divisions among House Republicans would continue from the 112th Congress into the 113th.

Some Republican conservatives registered their disapproval with the speaker by voting for others like Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, as well as Allen West, the fiery conservative from Florida who lost his seat in the November election.

"I think it was a vote of no confidence," said Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas, who voted for Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a conservative Republican. "In this town the intimidation was intense. There were a lot of members who wanted to vote no."

Mr. Boehner was nominated for a second term as speaker by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the Republican conference chairwoman, who predicted that he would lead the new Congress to tackle overhauls of the tax code, immigration laws and entitlements.

"What does he advise?" she asked of the man she hailed as a "regular guy." "Don't kick the can down the road."

The day opened with wishes for more comity and cooperation. But partisan battles were already brewing on issues like same-sex marriage, gun control, welfare programs and Medicare.

With Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. presiding, the Senate convened and swore in 13 new members and witnessed the return of Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, who had been away for a year recovering from a stroke. Among those joining the Senate was former Representative Tim Scott of South Carolina, a Republican who replaced Jim DeMint. He is the only black member of the Senate, whose ranks of female members grew.

Senate Democrats, their majority rising by two to 55, stepped away from a threat to immediately ram through new rules to limit the power of Republicans to filibuster with a simple majority vote.

As a result, the first day of the 113th Congress is likely to be noted for what did not happen -- a coup in the House, an unprecedented power play in the Senate -- than what did.

But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, promised to keep his options open as he continues negotiating with Republicans in search of a bipartisan agreement on new rules to unstick the sclerotic Senate. And the House is expected to adopt rules changes to shift the emphasis to shrinking the government.

The House gaveled to a close the 112th Congress three minutes before noon to make way for the new session. Given the fight over the fiscal crisis that lasted right up until the end, lawmakers were conducting business almost to the final minute.

And there is plenty ahead for the newly constituted House and Senate.

Looming in the near future are showdowns between the Republican House and President Obama over raising the government's statutory borrowing limit in February and the expiration in March of a stopgap spending measure financing the government. In both instances, Republicans have vowed not to cooperate unless federal spending is cut sharply and work begins to shrink entitlement programs like Medicare. Mr. Obama has been just as adamant in saying he is not prepared to negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States government, which would be threatened if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling.

Republicans hope to enshrine their small-government crusade into the rules of the House. One new House rule will require committees to identify potentially duplicative programs when considering the creation of new programs or reauthorizing existing ones. Another will require annual budget resolutions to contain information about the growth of entitlement programs, like food stamps, to quantify the growth of welfare programs, a senior Republican leadership aide said.

The new rules will also authorize House lawyers to continue a legal defense of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a Bill Clinton-era law that defines marriage as a legal bond exclusively between a man and a woman. That has enraged Democrats who see it as a frivolous expenditure of tax dollars when the Justice Department has declined to defend the law's constitutionality.

"Today, House Republicans will send a clear message to L.G.B.T. families: their fiscal responsibility mantra does not extend to their efforts to stand firmly on the wrong side of the future," Ms. Pelosi said.

The new rules will also authorize House lawyers to continue their pursuit of a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for not releasing documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, a gun-running controversy still boiling in conservative circles. Another rule will expand nepotism rules to preclude members from doing financial favors for their grandchildren, a change aimed squarely at Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California.

The House Ethics Committee in September cleared Ms. Waters of rules violations after a three-year investigation examining assistance to a bank with ties to her husband. But a special investigator said her chief of staff, who is also her grandson, might have acted improperly.

The 113th Congress began on a hopeful note when Mr. Kirk, returning for the first time in a year, emerged in front of the Senate. Mr. Biden greeted him with a hug and a "Welcome back, man!"

"It was a good debate," Mr. Kirk replied. "I was rooting for you."

Mr. Kirk was greeted by the Illinois delegation, as well as most of his colleagues in the Senate. His face contorted in concentration, Mr. Kirk, using a cane and flanked by Mr. Biden and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, began making his way up the steps of the Senate.

When he slowed near the top, his colleagues called out words of encouragement -- "Almost there!" and "A few more!" -- and then erupted, anew, in applause when Mr. Kirk reached the top, triumphant.

The last day of the 112th Congress lasted three minutes, taken up largely by the opening prayer of the chaplain, the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, who acknowledged "many struggles" and "many sorrows" in the last two years.

"May the work of 112th issue forth to the benefits of the nation," he intoned. "Where our work has fallen short, we ask your forgiveness."

With that, Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas and one of the most contentious House members, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Mr. Boehner gaveled one of the least productive Congresses in history adjourned forever.

nation

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here