But Jan. 3, swearing-in day, offered a new start, just like the first day back at school: a chance to let bygones be bygones, an opportunity for everyone to put aside their egos and tamp down their pride and get back to business (even if the prior Congress did almost no work at all).
But 10 comically dedicated members of the GOP chose to mark the moment by deliberately not fitting in, as ungraciously as they possibly could. This hapless tensome decided to vote against John Boehner as the next speaker of the House, even knowing he was certain to win the job once again. Dave Weigel, quoted above channeling Omar Little, is right on the money. So yeah, there's no shortage of troublemakers looking to make life miserable for Boehner, but if you want a handy shortlist of wayward Republicans who will spend the next two years sticking thorns in their leader's side, here it is (along with the name of whichever hapless soul they voted for):
Justin Amash (MI-03): Raul LabradorFour of these winners are really getting off on the right foot: As freshmen, Bridenstine, Massie, Yoho, and Stockman practically all begged Boehner to give them atomic wedgies on day one. Notably, Bridenstein and Yoho both beat incumbents in primaries, suggesting a devil-may-care attitude, while Massie (a hardcore Paulist) won a bitter open-seat primary on the strength of outside libertarian cash, infuriating the local establishment. Those with long memories will also recall that Stockman, a reject from the class of 1994, was too stupid to last more than a single term his first time in the House. Clearly, he's gunning for that award once more.
Jim Bridenstine (OK-01): Eric Cantor
Paul Broun (GA-10): Allen West
Louie Gohmert (TX-01): Allen West
Tim Huelskamp (KS-01): Jim Jordan
Walter Jones (NC-03): David Walker
Thomas Massie (KY-04): Justin Amash
Steve Pearce (NM-02): Eric Cantor
Ted Yoho (FL-03): Eric Cantor
Steve Stockman (TX-36): "Present"
Meanwhile, Amash, Huelskamp, and Jones were all booted from their committee assignments by a very unhappy leadership, on account of them triggering the "asshole factor," in Rep. Lynn Westmoreland's immortal words. (The fourth victim of that purge, Arizona's David Schweikert, swallowed hard and sucked it up for Boehner.) As for Broun, Gohmert, and Pearce, well, every college campus is haunted by those creepy loner super-seniors who never seem able to graduate, right? So that's them.
But that's just my gloss. I want to hear from each of these dystopians why they did what they did. Fortunately, swearing-in is covered by tons of reporters, but there are few newsy stories worth writing up. So when someone strays, like the members of this clueless minyan all did, that gets noticed. Follow me to this crazy schoolyard below the fold and see how they all justified themselves (and sniffed about how they were never picked first in gym class)—in their own words.
Bridenstine said in an interview before the vote that he would have trouble voting for Boehner, in large part because of the debt ceiling deal struck in 2011.Broun:
“The challenge is no one is running against (Boehner)” for speaker, Bridenstine told the Oklahoman. “So what does a guy like me do?”
“After careful consideration, I opted to cast my vote for a new Speaker of the House. Speaker Boehner is a good man and a good friend, but under his leadership, this Congress has failed to address the root of our nation’s fiscal crisis — the out-of-control spending in Washington. My hope was that we could elect a new speaker, so the 113th Congress would be forced to get serious about cutting spending and restoring prosperity to the American economy and people.”Gohmert:
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, says he voted against House Speaker John Boehner today because “we can’t be about business as usual.”Huelskamp:
“It’s time for a change at the top,” he said this afternoon onFOX News Channel’s Your World with Neil Cavuto, adding that “Congress is so full of brilliant, talented people.” [...]
Gohmert called Boehner “one of the nicest guys around, one of the most fun guys to be around.” But he hinted that he had nothing to lose because, as a thorn in the Speaker’s side, he’s already been punished.
“I mean already from two years ago, any chairmanship that I might get, I didn’t get. I mean I guess the only one that the Speaker doesn’t have a say in nixing was, I am co-chair of the Thursday morning prayer breakfast Bible study. But other than that….” Gohmert said.
"It's not about committee assignments. It's not about that. It's about a real concern that for two years we've had a lack of leadership based on conservative principles. It's a vote of no confidence," Huelskamp said.Jones:
Today Congressman Walter B. Jones (NC-3) voted to replace current Speaker of the House John Boehner with a new speaker more committed to fixing the defining issue of our time: runaway government spending and America’s unsustainable federal debt. Jones cast his ballot for David Walker, a man who has served as President Ronald Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of Labor, and as Comptroller General of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Walker has dedicated his life to cutting wasteful government spending, balancing the federal budget, and eliminating the debt.Massie:
“America cannot afford to continue down the path we’re on,” said Congressman Jones. “The debt is strangling this nation. I know Speaker Boehner has done the best he could, but this House of Representatives was elected to stop the spending, and time and again, opportunities have been missed. David Walker is a man who I believe would do what needs to be done to save America: stand up to President Obama, cut the deficit and balance the budget.”
Massie did not respond to messages seeking comment on why he voted for Amash.Massie's obviously setting himself up to be the class weakling here. Definitely predicting a few pink bellies for him in the months ahead.
"Congressman Pearce voted for a new voice to represent the House in negotiations going forward," Pearce spokesman Eric Layer said. "He believes that Speaker Boehner is taking us in the wrong direction. Congressman Pearce was unable to support the tax plan brought before the House on Tuesday, and feels that he is no longer able to support the negotiator."Yoho:
“I came to Congress for a cause – not a job," Yoho said in his press release. "I came here to make a difference and to stand up for what is right for America – not a political party. The gridlock in Washington is killing the American Republic. The people that I represent have had enough.Stockman:
“My vote today for Congressman Cantor was a signal that I will hold leadership accountable and challenge leadership when I feel that it is the right thing to do – Just like I am held accountable to the people of my district. However, it was also a signal that I believe in team work and will work with leadership to get things done. Congressman Cantor is part of leadership.
“We have gotten lost. What I have seen from the Republican party is the re-arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic. Our ship called America is sinking. We have to right the ship.
“We are in dire need of strong leadership that is willing to put our Nation first – not a political party. I am looking forward to getting to work and restoring the faith of the American people in their elected officials.
“I will not vote for or support Congressman Boehner’s bid to remain Speaker of the House,” said Congressman-elect Steve Stockman in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.Steve Stockman may be the most special of all: As Vanity Fair put it, he's a "freshman congressman who’s repeating freshman year." Somehow, I don't see a diploma in his future any time soon. Or ever.
“This is not something I do lightly, but out of bedrock conservative principle and a dire need to save this nation from its current course,” said the Republican elected in November to represent the 36th Congressional district, which runs from the Houston suburbs to the Louisiana border. “We cannot tolerate betrayal of conservative principle and economic reality.”
In his statement, Stockman said he had known Boehner since Stockman himself came to the House in 1995. He described the Ohio Republican as a decent man, but he said he didn’t approve of how he dealt with President Obama and with House conservatives.
“While he is all too eager to favorably negotiate with a liberal White House that has outmaneuvered him at every turn, he has been harsh and punitive in dealing with conservatives,” Stockman said.
“He has given President Obama billions in increased taxes, while unceremoniously booting conservatives from key committees without so much as the courtesy of a face-to-face meeting. Past Republican leaders, such as Tom DeLay, at least had the decency to directly tell you they were punishing you for voicing conservative principles.”