Last week, John Boehner (R-Ohio) easily won re-election as Speaker of the House. Only 25 Republicans defected, with 216 Republicans voting for him. In the days before the election, there was a flurry of emails and activity on social media about the vote, calling on members of Congress to oust Boehner. After the vote, conservative talk show hosts were outraged, denouncing Republicans who voted for him as RINOs and traitors. Even well-loved, conservative members of Congress like Utah’s Mia Love did not escape the anger. Tea Party favorite Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) missed the vote, but said he would have voted for Boehner.
To many, it did not make sense why conservative Republicans would settle for another term of the compromising Boehner, considering Republicans now control both chambers. In Arizona, the most conservative members of the delegation all voted to retain Boehner: Rep. David Schweikert, Rep. Matt Salmon and Rep. Trent Franks. Only Rep. Paul Gosar, who has the lowest American Conservative Union rating of the four, voted against Boehner. Newly elected Republican Rep. Martha McSally of Tucson also voted for Boehner. After the vote, some conservative activists in Arizona started calling Gosar the only true conservative in the delegation. Something wasn’t right. I called Rep. Schweikert to get to the bottom of it.
He told me the vote was largely ceremonial. The real decision was made six weeks ago, at the House Republican Conference. After that, it was too late to persuade most members to change their minds, deals had been made. Anyone who agreed to switch their vote after that could not be trusted based on prior experience. South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney confirmed this in a post on his Facebook page. Two years ago, the Boehner opposition collected signed pledges from enough members of Congress to defeat him. But when it came time to vote, almost half of them changed their minds.