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Boehner’s re-election vote came two weeks after he pulled his “plan B” fiscal cliff legislation in an embarrassing defeat and two days after the House passed the final fiscal cliff deal with mostly Democratic votes — and without the support of either Cantor or House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
The night of the vote on the fiscal cliff deal, which occurred New Year’s Day, Boehner stopped a vote on Hurricane Sandy aid in part because of fear about the “insurrection” forming against him, former Rep. Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio told The Atlantic.
The called-off plot suggests Boehner’s opponents were more organized than previously thought, however loosely. Notably, the attempt was plotted independently from, and without the knowledge of, a public effort led by a young conservative activist and former GOP Rep. Jeff Landry, which created buzz about Boehner’s possible ouster in conservative media. Landry lost re-election to Boehner ally Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., in a member-vs.-member contest brought about by redistricting.
Breitbart.com covered the Landry effort extensively, and one Republican member who participated in the larger coup attempt said Breitbart’s coverage of the smaller push actually helped keep their effort hidden because it suggested to Boehner and his allies that talk of a coup wasn’t serious. Members of the larger coup plot deliberately excluded top aides from deliberations to enhance secrecy and to protect them from recrimination.
The fact that the larger plot failed explains why some members who engaged in heated discussions about the matter on the House floor ultimately voted for Boehner.
For example, Tennessee Rep. Stephen Fincher had what he conceded was a “shouting match” with McCarthy on the floor minutes before the vote. Other sources confirmed the heated discussion was about the vote for speaker. But Fincher voted for Boehner. “A coup was not accomplished. The speaker is still the speaker,” Fincher said Saturday.
Deliberations about the coup attempt split the right flank of the GOP conference, and even many lawmakers with grave reservations about Boehner’s leadership opted against joining the effort.
Opponents to the coup attempt said the effort was doomed without a leader who could plausibly assume the speaker’s gavel. Some lawmakers also objected to the method of the challenge to Boehner. Rather than present concerns to fellow lawmakers in a closed-door conference meeting, they complained, members tried to unseat Boehner on live television.
In the minutes before the vote, Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland engaged in vigorous conversations with some of the members of the coup attempt who went on to vote against Boehner.
“What I was trying to explain to them [was], if you don’t have a complete plan ... there are other ways to do things. You’ve got to do it the smart way,” Westmoreland said.