John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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John Boehner and the Conservative Disconnect

Posted on January 9, 2015
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"John Boehner" by Gage Skidmore - Flickr: John Boehner. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.



(This originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank)

So, why did two dozen House Republicans vote against John Boehner for speaker?

I have been mulling this, and I can’t come up with a satisfactory answer.

Is it because he is not conservative enough?

That doesn’t make sense. By every reasonable measure, Mr. Boehner is a true conservative.

As an original member of the “Gang of Seven,” he has long fought against such conservative bugaboos as earmarks.

He is pro-life and pro-gun. He likes to cut taxes and cut spending.

In fact, John Boehner’s voting record is much more conservative than that of Rep.Daniel Webster, the Florida Republican who garnered 12 votes from the so-called hard-core conservatives.

The members who voted against Mr. Boehner for speaker never collectively articulated a convincing reason to replace him, other than that it’s time for a change, nor did they put forward a candidate who could have beaten Mr. Boehner.

Maybe it’s because Mr. Boehner isn’t tough enough when it comes to facing off against President Barack Obama.

But the speaker, despite misgivings, was willing to try the Ted Cruz strategy of shutting down the government in an effort to get the president to sign a repeal of his signature legislative accomplishment.

I think Mr. Boehner showed plenty of patience and toughness in pursuit of a strategy that was flawed from the start.

Sometimes congressional leaders lose their jobs when elections don’t go as well as expected. That happened to Newt Gingrich in 1998. But Mr. Boehner’s party was hugely successful in November, thanks largely to his efforts to raise money for candidates.

It’s possible that conservatives don’t like Mr. Boehner’s sense of style, that he smokes, that he likes the occasional glass of merlot, or that he is a prolific golfer. Or maybe they are jealous of his tan.

These reasons don’t really add up, though.