Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Is Boehner’s Gavel on the Line?

Raul Labrador

Labrador said Tuesday that the issue of immigration could cost Boehner his speakership. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 8:15 p.m. | Speaker John A. Boehner should lose his gavel if he pursues immigration this year, a prominent tea party Republican said in an interview with CQ Roll Call on Tuesday.

“I think it should cost him his speakership,” Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho warned, if Boehner puts an immigration overhaul on the floor.

But even if Boehner shelves immigration, Labrador said, the party needs new leadership — and the two-term lawmaker is not ruling out a run for leadership himself.

“There is a hunger in the conference for bold, visionary leaders, and this is not just conservatives — you talk to more middle-of-the-road members of the conference, they’re kind of frustrated with the direction of this leadership, and they’re looking for ways to change that,” he said.

Labrador, who was part of a failed coup attempt in 2013, has made a name for himself inside and outside the Republican Conference by pushing Boehner and other Republican leaders to embrace a new brand of conservatism.

“I think you’re going to see some changes here in the House over the next year,” he said. “I think that this is an opportunity for whoever wants to run for leadership to show that they have a clear vision for America.”

Labrador said the new GOP leadership in the 114th Congress could include members currently in leadership, particularly Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, with whom Labrador has a strong working relationship.

But does Labrador see Boehner as speaker in the 114th?

Labrador described Boehner with words and phrases such as “pragmatic” and a “steady hand” and as someone who “understands how Washington works.” But Labrador said he doesn’t think the Ohio Republican is interested in transforming himself.

“And what I respect about him is that I don’t think he wants to change who he is — that’s actually something to be lauded,” Labrador said. But Labrador intimated that doesn’t mean he’s right for the job.

CQ Roll Call asked whether Boehner can re-create himself once again.

“I don’t think so,” Labrador said.

As for Cantor: “I think he could provide that bold leadership, but he needs to be more open about it, more direct about what direction he wants to go.”

Labrador called CQ Roll Call after an earlier version of this story was posted to stress that he was not predicting Boehner would lose his job, but he said his gut tells him Boehner will not seek another term as speaker. He declined to rule out a run but said he has given no thought to running for speaker.

While Labrador might seem like a long shot for the gavel himself, he has strong ties to the Republicans who seized the conference in 2010 and 2012. And come 2014, a large percentage of the GOP conference will have been elected in the past three cycles.

“I voted for him for speaker,” Justin Amash of Michigan noted on Tuesday, with a chuckle.

“In an open field, he’d be one of my favorites, maybe my favorite,” said Thomas Massie, R-Ky., going on to mention that Labrador, who has appeared on “Meet the Press” eight times, would be “a great spokesman for our party on the Sunday shows every Sunday.”

Labrador said Republican leadership needs to do three things: articulate a clear vision, develop a plan to implement that vision and follow through.

“They’re not doing any of those three,” Labrador said. “They’re sort of floundering, trying to figure out how we can sell our message to the American people.”

One of those very issues GOP leadership is trying to sell is immigration.

Labrador, who walked out on bipartisan House talks on immigration last year, doesn’t think it’s the right time for the issue and thinks most of his fellow Republicans agree.

“The problem that we have right now is that Republicans and the American public don’t trust this president to actually enforce the law,” he said. “It’s the lack of trust that is killing us right now.”

And Labrador had a visceral reaction to National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon suggesting last week that leadership would tackle immigration after a majority of GOP primaries are finished.

“That’s such an evil way of doing legislation,” Labrador said.

“To actually openly admit that what you’re going to do is pull the wool over people’s eyes,” he said. “I think that’s offensive. And that’s not what I’m for. That’s not why I came here to Washington, D.C. And it saddens me that my own party thinks that it’s OK to do that.”

Labrador theorized that the middle of 2015 would be a much better time — early enough that it doesn’t become an issue in the presidential debates — especially if the Senate is in Republican hands.

But that may be subject to change. Labrador is prone to changing his mind.

In the summer of 2011, during the debt limit showdown, Labrador was a thorn in the side of leadership, unwilling to accept only a dollar in cuts for every dollar raised in the debt ceiling. Labrador wanted a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, too.

Now Labrador has a different position.

“I actually think we should just do a clean debt ceiling,” he said Tuesday. “Give the Democrats their vote. We don’t have to vote for it.”

Labrador said he would let Democrats “own it” and make raising the debt limit without addressing spending a campaign issue.

He said Republicans have plenty of great ideas on how to cut spending in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

“The problem is: If we’re not going to fight for them, why are we even going through the ruse of seeming to fight for something?”

The answer to that question, Labrador said in his sarcastic-but-serious tone, is that Republicans “love to lose.”

Labrador, meanwhile, doesn’t see the tea party waning even if fewer people are describing themselves as members.

“It’s always been the same group of people that sort of remain silent in the shadows until they can’t take it anymore, and we just give them different titles,” Labrador said. “I actually think you see the conservative, small government Republicans growing in number in the House of Representatives.”

And that would be a good sign for Labrador’s run for leadership — if he sticks around.

Labrador weighed the option of running against Idaho incumbent governor, Republican C.L. “Butch” Otter, before deciding against it. And with five children, many think Labrador isn’t suited for the congressional life.

Labrador said he doesn’t know how long he’ll remain around Washington. “But I don’t think my mission is finished here in Congress,” he said.

“I just need to keep pushing for change,” he continued.

And what does pushing for change mean?

“A lot of different things,” Labrador said, content to let the mystery linger.

“Somebody needs to come forward who is going to have a vision,” he said.

And who is that person?

“We’ll find out,” he said with a smirk.

“Anytime you’re a voice for change, you make a lot of enemies,” he noted.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

Corrected: 8:15 p.m.

Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni explains here in full why we have corrected this story.

  • ajr86

    Boehner must go! He’s incompetent and a weak leader. Anyone pushing for rewarding law breakers, aka amnesty, should have no place in the United States of America government.

    • we don’t need rinos

      my rino congressman says illegals amnesty will pass before Easter recess

  • Jason Priestley

    Replacing Boehner with Cantor is like replacing a dildo with a broomstick handle.

    • ¿ɟʇʍ

      Could you be more descriptive?
      Just kidding… Actually very funny!

  • Kelsonus


  • Oppenheimer

    At least Boehner is attempting to legislate. Labrador’s essentially wants Congress to kick the can down the road on immigration on the misguided notion that it’ll be politically opportune to act later. Using President Obama and this “lack of trust” is a convenient ploy, an attempt to deflect from the responsibilities incumbent to the position of representative. It’s sad…and even sadder is that he complains about the lack of vision within his party and deflects his own opportunity to articulate a vision with quips like “A lot of different things” and “We’ll see.” What a joke.

    • Chillycat2

      Kick it down the road… There’s nothing wrong with it… It’s just not being enforced… ALL talk of reform is simply Democrat speak for amnesty….!

    • Spectator

      Kicking the can down road is much preferred to any kind of amnesty. Why on earth are we actually discussing giving illegal aliens any kind of path to citizenship? For starters, they are lawbreakers who have broken every law in their way. And they have CAUSED many of the problems this country faces: They take jobs from Americans and receive government benefits, taxpayers dearly.

      Boehner is not talking about true reform, which would comprise enforcing the laws on the books and looking at how immigration can benefit the country, its citizens, and legal immigants to this country who have followed the rules, not the illegals. His kind of “reform” would be detrimental, not helpful.

    • Layla

      Put troops on the borders, shut them down, and enforce the laws we have. Until then, NO, ABSOLUTELY NO on immigration reform….not with 50 to 90 MILLION AMERICANS not working.

  • blfdjlj

    Sure, just like he lost his gavel after voting to raise the debt limit, fund the government, raise taxes on the wealthy etc… we hear this empty threat all the time.

    • WilliamK

      There was no tax increase on wealth. You can be the wealthiest person in America and not pay a federal dime in taxes and you do not need an accountant to do it.

      We have an income tax, actually a productivity tax. The more productive you are the more you pay in taxes.

  • ¿ɟʇʍ

    Not only does Boehner need to give up the Speakership, he needs to be voted out of office. He’s a RINO just like McCain, McConnell and all the other multiple term institutionalized congressional zombies with an R after their name. Always giving ground to the left. Never gaining ground. We need a few hundred more people like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Trey Gowdy.

    • lilflourocheezits

      Boehner has a primary opponent this year named Eric Gurr. Just saying.

  • LeavingMyRepublicanParty

    Why not Labrador? He would make a great speaker.

  • Carlos Danger

    I don’t see any real leadership coming from the House.
    We have a few good conservative but the vast majority really need to be replaced.

  • Don Morris

    Move toward constitutional conservative/libertarian principals, or be gone.

    • teapartyidiots

      Libertarians think women should have dominion over their bodies, you sure about that?

  • Andre Leonard

    It’s refreshing to see someone challenge the Speaker. The GOP has turned into a party of RINO’s.

    Boehner is a rather pathetic figure who displays no real leadership and has been unable to rein the party. His crying episodes only make him look weak and unable to cope.

    Worse is the heir apparent Eric Cantor who shares the same traits and is equally unable to navigate in the current system of patronage, spoils and compromise.

    Labrador makes some interesting and accurate observations here.

  • Jum1801

    I sure as hell hope Boehner’s gavel is on the line. I for one am drawing a line in the sand over the GOP leadership’s
    insistence at jamming amnesty down the throats of conservativess in service
    to corporate donors over the rank and file’s clearly stated wishes.
    Even if he’s unsuccessful, if Boehner continues to maneuver for
    “immigration reform” or whatever euphemism the corporate backers of the move come up with for
    allowing countless millions of non-citizens to determine the political
    destiny of the United States, I will refuse to vote for Republican

    I’m tired of being treated as the enemy by the GOP establishment. It’s time to return the favor.

    • Layla

      Support the Senate Conservatives Fund and candidates who will vote FOR AMERICA.

      Vote TEA and END the GOP establishment.

  • Conservative4Ever

    The House should elect a conservative Speaker from outside its ranks. Someone like Sarah Palin or Allen West.

  • DrGeneNelson

    I believe that many middle-class Republicans would agree:
    “I think it should cost him his speakership,” Rep. Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho warned, if Boehner puts an immigration overhaul on the floor.

  • jskdn

    Voters deserve to know what their representatives will do if reelected. That goes not only for the speaker but all members of the house. I would like candidates to commit before the election to what they will and won’t do regarding immigration after the election, and lay that out in precise language, not vague and inaccurate descriptions contradicted by reality, so that voters can decide whether they want to vote for them or not. From what I’ve heard about the GOP conference meeting, support in the caucus is great for the amnesty and greatly increased immigration that the business, donor class wants. And many of those supporting amnesty want to wait till after the election to pass it so that they may avoid electoral consequences.

    • Layla

      This is the reason that Marco Rubio is done in Florida. HE LIED.

  • zombietimeshare

    For so many things, illegal alien amnesty and increasing the debt limit among them Boehner should lose the gavel. (Though he is facing a primary challenger in his district and I’d rather see him lose there.) Boehner should view this as an opportunity to pursue his hobbies, drinking, smoking and golf.

    • Spectator

      You forgot crying.

  • roastytoasty

    Is Boehner’s gavel on the line? If it ain’t, it oughta be.
    How could a man who takes an Oath to defend U.S. American Constitutional Liberty allow the lawlessness that the Obama admin has routinely practiced? While the baby-boomers were partying hearty, snakes & rats like Boehner were burrowing deep into the unionized / interlocked bureaucratic system.

  • jfhdsiu

    “Is Boehner’s gavel on the line?” isn’t the operative question. The “operative question” is “WHY does Boehner still have the gavel?

  • john martin

    For you Republicans who are planning to wait until the primaries are over and then vote for amnesty, just try it. We’ll make sure you have the scarlet letter “I” on your foreheads for all time. I = Immigration reform = Amnesty

    • Layla

      Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy have exposed themselves for what they are, empty suits, if they think this is an issue which should even be discussed until the 50 to 90 million Americans no longer in the work force have JOBS.

      This country needs a Congress focused on putting people back to work and not supporting them for the rest of their lives.

      This country needs a Congress willing to reward those who work hard and NOT those who reduce employee hours to escape the penalties of Obamacare.

      This country needs a Congress willing to REPEAL A BAD BILL and start over.

      This country needs a Congress made up of citizen representatives who understand what bad decisions have cost this country.

      We need JOBS, NOT welfare.

      Support the Senate Conservatives fund and help put Americans back to work, not make it easier for illegals to take those jobs.


  • Tim Miller

    Boehner should have never been in this position. He is not as bad as Pelosi, but close

  • JDanaH

    A miniscule fraction of the American people think addressing illegal immigration is an urgent problem. So why the hell are GOP leaders so obsessed with it, rather than focused on more important issues such as deregulation to help unshackle the moribund economy?

  • Conservative In Libtard Austin

    The drunk’s gavel has been on the line since the last election.

    I believe Boehner is a compromised drunk who must be primaried and if not, then forced out by electing a democrat for his district.

  • Forums4Justice

    Labrador and Boehner are both on the list of House Republican Legalization Amnesty Pukes

  • Forums4Justice

    our laws against illegal immigration are being all but completely ignored by, both, our government, and the employers … while the Top 0.1% are shamelessly promoting Legalization Amnesty for millions of poverty-level illegal immigrants even as taxpayers shell out billions of dollars to millions of unemployed Americans

    the Top 0.1% Establishment Legalization Amnesty Pukes

  • 2bvictorius

    John Boehner is the Bane of the republican party, the house of ill repute,” aka”, the U.S. congress. He is more of a Pelosi wonk than a republican and should not only lose his leadership role but, his next election in his home state of Ohio.

    I would not be surprised if he “retires” from the congress and does what he does best, lobby for corrupt CEO’s of big business, wall street-er’s, and central banking.

  • Forums4Justice

    was looking for something else and found this ….

    New GOP House leader has many old ties to K Street

    By The Center for Public Integrity … February 2, 2006

    Rep. John Boehner’s task of reducing lobbyists’ influence on Congress is made more difficult with 14 former staffers now working for lobbies


  • The Savage Hombre

    Although the natural pecking order of a free country may appear callous, if we are to advance, then some must lead and the rest will follow.

  • Charles Hurst

    The only thing that needs to be discussed is how do we go about deporting 11 million illegal invaders in this country and the removal of any benefits from them or their families. That’s the only thing I want to hear from Boehner and the rest of the GOP.

    The year I began writing was also the year I joined the original Minuteman Project. Naco, Arizona. 5000 illegals crossing everyday in the peak seasons.

    The only issue is enforcement. There is not nor should be a “we’ll consider amnesty after enforcement is solved.” There should be no amnesty for those who broke the law. And any Progressive defense which is usually comprised of emotionally charged stories of families and children or cries of racism has nothing to do with the law. Someone has been here for ten years? The answer is deportation. Someone married while here illegally? The answer is deportation. The burden is on the lawbreaker. Anything else is anti reason.

    You enforce the law and continue with proper paths of citizenship as before. You give absolutely nothing to the lawbreaker. And if there are threats of violence from mass demonstrations then call in the National Guard. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin. If you’re saying in demonstrations that America belongs to Mexico, if you’re waving the Mexican flag in our country, then you are an enemy to this country. Period. And you should be treated accordingly as an enemy. The fact that a million people protest that we dare state we should have border security shows there is a serious attitude problem in the Latino community in the southwestern states. It is what it is. It’s not all of you–I won’t generalize–but it is a lot of you. You don’t see immigrant Russians waving the Russian flag.

    I’ve written in fiction what is based on history. These are the ingredients that produce the poison of future societal breakdowns. Or civil wars. As history shows if we do not regain our moral compass in law and values we will have one of the two in our nation and probably sooner than later.

    Charles Hurst. Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat story of Armageddon. And creator of THE RUNNINGWOLF EZINE

  • Steffen W Schmidt

    You wrote, “Anyone pushing for rewarding law breakers, aka amnesty, should have no place in the United States of America government.” Republicans should have impeached Ronald Reagan, that left wing traitor, for his immigration reform.

  • Jon McCasper

    Although inseparable from liberty, the self-reliance and responsibility required to prosper in a free country can be sources of discontent.

  • Yonatan YONATAN

    It’s been six months without an unemployment extension bill for the three million unemployed families still without benefits. The republicans senate has made every effort to delay the vote to render it too late for passing. This was done in a very calculated manner, without compassion or common decency towards these struggling families. The republican senate has destined these families to financial ruin and utter poverty. They have walked away from the issue, leaving these families without an income source. However, they fought tooth and nail for the Koch Brother’s Oil Pipeline bill to be passed. They have demonstrated for whom they work for, and it’s not the average American, living paycheck to paycheck. The republicans are working for corporate America and special interest groups with deep pockets. The congress recently passed a foreign aid package for the Ukraine. worth Billions of tax payer dollars, but failed helping these poor families in need..

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