They are known as the Tea Party wing of the House GOP or simply the “Hell No Caucus,” but however one describes these lawmakers, they are House Speaker John Boehner’s worst nightmare.
Boehner of Ohio was elected to his third term as speaker on Tuesday with 216 votes cast for him, or 11 more than he needed from all the Republicans and Democrats who were present and voting in the chamber. But his election was by no means a slam dunk, and a surprising 25 conservative and libertarian members voted against him in a startling display of dissension within the party.
If Boehner and newly installed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) are serious about trying to find common ground with Obama on a range of issues – including tax reform, trade, energy and infrastructure -- they will face a huge obstacle in getting their measures around the “Hell No Caucus.”
While only a dozen conservatives had the nerve to stand up to Boehner in the last leadership election two years ago, twice that many stood on the chamber floor on Tuesday and cast their votes for others. The Washington Post said it was the largest rebellion by a party against its incumbent speaker since the Civil War.
Boehner has been at war with some of these conservatives practically from the first day he first seized the gavel of the House in January 2011. Many voiced displeasure with his early deal-making with President Obama over spending and budget issues. Even after Boehner’s relationship with the administration soured and he led numerous efforts to challenge Obama on health care, immigration and other hot-button issues, his party’s right wing continued to blame him for being willing to cut a deal to avoid a government shutdown or default on the U.S. debt.
For many, the turning point came last month, when Boehner reached a compromise with Obama and Senate Democrats on a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year that didn’t contain specific language blocking the president’s executive order sparing nearly five million illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation. Freshman Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), the giant-killer who defeated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Virginia primary race, had intended to vote for Boehner, but changed his mind after becoming miffed over the speaker’s handling of the massive spending bill.
“Washington is broken in part because our party’s leadership has strayed from its own principles of free market, limited government, constitutional conservatism,” Brat wrote in an op-ed for the conservative website Breitbart.
The rebellion was led by three conservatives who formally challenged Boehner for the speakership – Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Reps. Ted Yoho and Daniel Webster of Florida. Webster waited until the very last minute to enter the race and ended up receiving 12 of the 25 dissenting votes that were cast.
Tuesday’s roll call vote helped vividly illustrate the deep ideological fissure within the House GOP – one that largely defines the divide between conservative pragmatists and the party’s ideologues.
Here are the 25 GOP lawmakers who did not vote for Boehner yesterday:
- Rep. Justin Amash, Mich. – A leading iconoclast and persistent thorn in the side of Boehner and the GOP leadership. He was kicked off the Budget Committee in in November 2012 after clashing with leaders and subsequently played a role in an abortive effort to depose Boehner.
- Rep. Brian Babin, Texas – The freshman House member is a dentist and long-time conservative political activist who campaigned on a platform of water conservation, repealing Obamacare and preventing illegal immigration.
- Rep. Rod Blum, Iowa – The freshman House member is a businessman and owner of Digital Canal, a software company.
- Rep. Dave Brat, Va. – The Randolph-Macon College professor toppled former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary with substantial Tea Party backing. He had previously said he supported Boehner.
- Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Okla. – Another Tea Party champion, Bridenstine got off to an early start as a rebel in January 2013 when he cast his first vote for Cantor over Boehner to be House speaker.
- Rep. Curt Clawson, Fla. -- The second-term House conservative was so angry about Boehner’s support of the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that he cast his vote for someone not even a member of the House – Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
- Rep. Scott DesJarlais, Tenn. – A physician and ardent Obamacare foe, DesJarlais is beginning his second term. He did not announce his intention to vote against Boehner until the last minute.
- Rep. Jeff Duncan, S.C. – He voted for his fellow South Carolinian Rep. Trey Gowdy on Tuesday, and actually received a vote for speaker himself, from Brat.
- Rep. Scott Garrett, N.J.—Beginning his seventh term, Garrett said his vote was a response to “a large number of my constituents” who called to “demand new leadership in the House.”
- Rep. Chris Gibson, N.Y. – Gibson, considered one of the most moderate Republicans in the House, cast the sole vote for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Majority Leader. He later announced he would retire in 2017.
- Rep. Louie Gohmert, Texas – The former Texas judge and conservative gadfly was one of three to formally challenge Boehner on Tuesday.
- Rep. Paul Gosar, Ariz. – Gosar, the only GOP Representative from Arizona to vote against Boehner, said his vote was meant to “instill firmness and discipline” in House Republicans.
- Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Kan. – A vocal critic of the leadership who was removed from the Budget and Agriculture committees two years ago after opposing Boehner’s election to a second term.
- Rep. Walter Jones, N.C. – A member of the hard right who helped organize the unsuccessful strategy to deny Boehner a first-ballot victory
- Rep. Steve King, Iowa – An influential conservative and leading opponent of immigration reform. King will host the upcoming Iowa Freedom Summit, a weekend conclave that will attract at least a half dozen potential GOP presidential candidates.
- Rep. Thomas Massie, Ky. – The second-termer from Kentucky voted against Boehner because his first term revealed to him that “a significant source of the dysfunction” in Congress is the House leadership.
- Rep. Mark Meadows, N.C. – He said his vote was based on “thousands” of constituent phone calls asking him to “vote for someone else.”
- Rep. Rich Nugent, Fla. – Nugent was one of two GOP representatives Boehner had kicked off the powerful Rules Committee in the aftermath of the leadership vote.
- Rep. Gary Palmer, Ala. – The freshman lawmaker announced during his campaign that he would not support Boehner, something he later told the Birmingham News he had come to regret.
- Rep. Bill Posey, Fla. – Posey, a former realtor, was one of a number of Floridians who cast a vote for Rep. Daniel Webster, their colleague in the state’s delegation.
- Rep. Scott Rigell, Va. – Rigell, a car dealer and former Marine, said he made up his mind to cast a vote for Webster only after speaking to him on the House floor Tuesday morning.
- Rep. Marlin Stutzman, Ind. – A deeply conservative fourth-generation farmer and one of the House class of 2010 that has frequently bridled against Boehner’s leadership. He was one of the leaders of Tuesday’s effort to topple Boehner.
- Rep. Randy Weber, Texas – A former air conditioning contractor who emerged from a crowded field of GOP candidates in 2012 to claim the seat of retiring Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian icon. Weber claims that after he opposed Boehner, the leadership dropped him as the chief sponsor of a Science, Space and Technology Committee bill that was sent to the floor this week. .
- Rep. Daniel Webster, Fla. – An emerging star among the conservatives and one of three to formally challenge Boehner on Tuesday. He picked up 12 of the 25 dissenting votes.
- Rep. Ted Yoho, Fla. -- A veterinarian who on his first day as a member in January 2013 joined a small group of conservatives who refused to back Boehner for speaker. He was one of the three to formally challenge Boehner on Tuesday.
The Fiscal Times’ Rob Garver contributed to this report
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