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Hours after being undermined by his own conference, Speaker John A. Boehner confidently strode to the House floor on Friday, ascended to the rostrum and, gavel firmly in hand, ushered in a pro forma session.
The routine exercise held symbolism: damaged politically and hung out to dry by his members on Thursday night, the Ohio Republican is nonetheless in no imminent danger of losing his hold on the speakership.
Even his allies admit that Boehner’s stunning failure to find the votes for his “plan B” tax legislation was a major blow to his credibility, provoking befuddlement and even outrage from fellow Republicans.
But there is also considerable anger in the GOP conference directed at the conservative lawmakers that forced Boehner’s shocking defeat.
That fractured reaction — coupled with the lack of a plausible challenger — mean Boehner is unlikely to face any significant challenge to his position as speaker in the near term.
“These are people that, they don’t have a leader amongst them, and they don’t want to be led,” said a GOP member and Boehner loyalist. “He had probably 200 people lined up for him, for his position. And those 200 are pretty dad gum loyal to the speaker and pretty angry at that group.”
There is also the lack of a plausible challenger, something that has thwarted would-be conservative revolutionaries in the past.
Morton Blackwell who leads the weekly “Weyrich lunch,” of conservative strategy gatherings, said when Republicans won control of the House Majority in 2010, he urged Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., to challenge Boehner, but Pence declined. Pence last month won election to the Indiana governor’s mansion.
“I thought, and I think events have proved, that Mike Pence would have been a better speaker,” he said.
That’s not to say Boehner does not face any fallout. He damaged his credibility and leverage in fiscal cliff negotiations by announcing he would hold a vote, then pulling it at the last minute when he could not find the votes in his conference.
“There’s no question that, look, this is a disappointment, this is a blow,” said the member loyal to Boehner. “The folks that couldn’t see fit to help him in what was an extremely important vote for him and the entire team, it may not have been their intention to wound him politically, but they effectively have.”
Meanwhile, a minority of Republicans believes he does face real peril.
“It’s the beginning of the end for the current leadership team,” said a second GOP Member, who is a high profile leadership critic.