Speaker of the House John Boehner was handed the Speaker’s gavel by the results of the Tea Party wave election of 2010, yet he has spent his entire Speakership distancing himself from the Tea Party movement and doing his best to stymie their efforts to implement their policy goals of spending reform and smaller government.
In the aftermath of establishment Republican Mitt Romney’s disastrous defeat in the recent presidential election, Boehner declared that “Obamacare is the law of the land” and seemed to throw in the towel on any further effort to defund or repeal a law that, even after Obama was re-elected, a majority of Americans still don’t like.
Given the loss of House seats and Boehner’s abandonment of the Obamacare fight, many conservatives -- including ConservativeHQ.com Chairman Richard Viguerie -- called for the Speaker to resign, or for a conservative to challenge him for the gavel.
Such a challenge would not have been without precedent – principled conservative Mike Pence, soon to be inaugurated as Governor of Indiana, challenged Boehner for Minority Leader after the Republicans lost the majority in 2006 and then-Speaker Dennis Hastert left the Republican leadership.
But Boehner was re-elected without challenge and appears to be tightening his grip on the House Republican Conference.
Boehner and the more conservative House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, appear to have come to an entente cordiale, opting to nominate each other for re-election in a show of establishment unity.
Boehner also maneuvered his preferred candidate for House Republican Conference Chairman, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, past conservative Representative Tom Price of Georgia.
And Boehner also strengthened his position on the Republican Steering Committee, which decides Committee Chairmanships and assignments and provides the Republican leader with substantial patronage-style power.
What this means for conservatives who have been inclined to buck Boehner in the past is pretty clear: Boehner’s “get your ass in line” leadership style isn’t changing.
The first test Boehner will face as Speaker after the establishment GOP’s 2012 disaster will be the “fiscal cliff” negotiations with Obama and the Democrats -- and he has already signaled that “revenues are on the table,” which is Capitol Hill speak for he’s willing to abandon Republican principles and raise your taxes.
Conservatives have long-assumed that establishment Republicans, like Speaker Boehner, would be willing to go along with a tax increase to avoid having the government going over the fiscal cliff – that’s one of the reasons we thought Boehner should be replaced.
The big unknown facing conservatives in the House now that Speaker Boehner has consolidated his power is how much of that power is going to be focused on coercing conservatives into voting against their principles on the fiscal cliff, raising the debt ceiling and other establishment Republican follies.
Given what Boehner has said since the election, we urge conservatives to hang tough on taxes and raising the debt ceiling, but we predict a rough ride for any House conservative who plans to stick to their principles.