Rep. John Boehner of Ohio won a House vote on the first day of the 113th Congress despite widespread rumors in Washington that Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and other senior Republicans planned to oppose him. (AFP)
Despite Republican backlash over several tax and spending measures, the U.S. House voted Jan. 3 to keep a defense-sector ally as the lower chamber’s speaker.
Rep. John Boehner of Ohio won a House vote on the first day of the 113th Congress despite widespread rumors in Washington that Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and other senior Republicans planned to oppose him.
In recent weeks, Boehner’s own House Republicans rejected a bill just before Christmas that would have raised tax rates on Americans who earn $1 million or more. They also attempted to block his plans to bring a Senate bill that averted the fiscal cliff and delayed defense sequestration cuts to an up-or-down vote.
Boehner received 220 votes, a mere 6 more than the 214 required for election given the 426 votes cast. In order to be elected speaker a candidate must receive a majority of the total votes cast. Nancy Pelosi received 192 votes from her colleagues, while Eric Cantor, R-Va., came in second amongst Republicans with 3 votes. Cantor placed his vote for Boehner.
In something of a protest vote, former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) received the third most votes among Republicans with 2, as a dozen Republicans voted for candidates other than Boehner.
Most recently, GOP members from New York and New Jersey slammed Boehner for briefly pulling from the floor schedule a supplemental spending bill that will send billions in federal aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Some insiders said heavyweights like Cantor, Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., or Republican Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price of Georgia might challenge Boehner. Insiders said there was no Boehner alternative who could garner enough votes from the various wings of the caucus.
Yet, Boehner survived. And that likely is good news for the defense sector.
A September Defense News analysis of 2012 election-cycle contribution data revealed Boehner was among the leading congressional recipients of campaign contributions from the top five U.S. defense firms.
Boehner picked up significant dollars from Lockheed Martin, Northrop, Boeing and Raytheon.
Pentagon and congressional observers at that time said the Boehner donations were due to a large defense-sector presence in his home state and because executives know the House speaker will play a big role in efforts to avoid a pending $500 billion, 10-year cut to planned national defense spending.
While Cantor and tea party Republicans opted against challenging Boehner, sources and reports indicate their patience with him is wearing thin. His relationships within his own caucus are strained, as are ones with President Barack Obama, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
How those relationships evolve — or further devolve — could greatly influence future sequester debate.
And comments Cantor made about Boehner and the Sandy supplemental to Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and to congressional Republicans from that state and New York suggest the relationship is again strained.
Deficit hawks want Boehner to get tough during the coming debt-ceiling debate. Some analysts say it is possible those members of his GOP caucus could press the speaker to defy his defense-sector donors and call for further Defense Department spending cuts.
The speaker, with the fiscal cliff bill and possibly this week with the Sandy relief package, broke a long-used GOP rule not to bring to a vote any legislation that lacked support from at least the Republican caucus.
Now that Boehner has shown a willingness to do so in order to attract ample Democratic votes, some analysts wonder if he would repeat that process with a debt-ceiling deal that includes big defense cuts.
Defense News staff writer Zach Fryer-Briggs contributed to this report.