Boehner is consolidating his power ahead of what will likely be a contentious legislative session during which every vote will be crucial to getting Republicans the best possible deal from President Barack Obama and the resurgent congressional Democrats.
The election of the next chairman of the Republican Study Committee also swung Boehner’s way Thursday. The group notably rankled leadership early in the 112th Congress when emails came to light showing RSC staff working with outside groups to undercut the speaker.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was vice chairman of recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee, won the chairmanship in an upset. He ran a campaign promising to put an end to the internal squabbles and work more closely with leadership to get results.
“There have been times that I’ve voted against some big bills that John Boehner’s brought forward and asked me to support, and there’s been times I’ve supported them,” Scalise said after the election. “At the same time, I want to unite conservatives to get some things done.”
Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia was the consensus pick among the founding members of the RSC — usually an endorsement that portends victory. Graves was perceived by many observers, however, to be more inclined to continue the RSC’s attempts to undermine leadership positions in favor of more conservative alternatives.
“It was a shock,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., regarding his delegation colleague losing the leadership bid.
He stopped short of calling the election a victory for Boehner but said that in the halls of power, you never know exactly who is exerting their influence.
“Everybody’s got their favorites up here, and you have people that say, ‘Well, I’m not going to get involved in it,’ but they’re in it up to their eyeballs. So it’s just hard to say who was doing the backchannels and who wasn’t,” Westmoreland said.
In leadership elections Wednesday, things mostly went Boehner’s way, too.
Though the speaker was careful to remain neutral publicly, it was no secret that in the race for conference chairman, he favored current Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington over Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia.
Price had sometimes sided with the rambunctious wing of the Republican Conference while McMorris Rodgers has been a loyal Boehner foot soldier.
In order to avoid a fight, Boehner even offered Price a deal to get out of the race, which would have given him a seat in leadership had he accepted and pledged to vote along with the rest of leadership. Price declined, however, and when the votes were tallied Wednesday, McMorris Rodgers — and by default Boehner — emerged victorious. The seat Price would have occupied, chairman of elected leadership, has been eliminated from the roster.