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When it came time to nominate the Speaker for the 113th Congress Wednesday, a sole lawmaker rose to nominate a dark-horse candidate.
Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas suggested that former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., — who could technically still serve because the Speaker does not have to be a sitting member of Congress — return to the post.
No one seconded the nomination.
The silence from the Republican Conference at the suggestion that someone else should occupy the post represents the firm grip Speaker John A. Boehner has on his position.
Though he will surely face opposition from Democrats and some in his own conference as major issues such as tax increases, spending cuts, immigration and health care are litigated, the Ohio Republican has a steady leadership table from which to draw support.
Even Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who as recently as one year ago was the subject of speculation that he would challenge Boehner for the top slot, has now fallen in line. He rose to nominate Boehner, saying that he has been a “tremendous mentor,” according to a source in the meeting.
Cantor, in turn, was nominated by Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California was nominated unopposed, solidifying the top three Republican leadership slots.
From there, the victories for leadership kept on coming.
Current GOP Conference Vice Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, who was tacitly endorsed by Boehner and other leaders, faced an upstart challenge from Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia to become the next chairman of the Republican Conference.
It was the most competitive leadership race, and the battle was cast as one for influence over the conference, particularly when 2012 vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin wrote a letter to colleagues earlier this week endorsing Price. Ryan nominated Price in the Wednesday meeting.
In the end, McMorris Rodgers was able to ward off Price in what most members called a dead-heat contest, although the official vote tally was not released.
Despite the fact that the race simply decided the fourth-ranking GOP leadership slot in one half of one third of the federal government, members and onlookers did not take it lightly.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who had been whipping support for McMorris Rodgers’ campaign, said many Republicans believed that the race is a reflection of which lessons the party learned from the recent elections, namely should it diversify its leadership ranks, in this case with a high-ranking woman, or should it continue fighting, sometimes among itself, for conservative values?
“Each side reads larger implications for the conference,” Cole said. “People are looking at whether or not we learned the right lessons from the losses in the general election.”