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

With His BFF Leaving, Is Boehner Eyeing the Exit, Too?

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

With the postmortems of this year’s biggest congressional events winding down, it’s not too early to start forecasting the top Hill stories of the year ahead.

Whatever happens in the career of John A. Boehner is sure to make the list.

If he makes good on his own current assertions by securing a third consecutive term as speaker of the House, that will be one of the more notable events at the Capitol in 2014. That’s because it would seal a total turnabout from the shaky hold he had on his power only a few weeks ago and would mean he’s engineered an uneasy truce in the Republican Party’s war with itself.

If he says he wants to stay in the top job, and his colleagues turn him down, that would be an enormously bigger deal. That’s because it would mark yet another reversal of his fortunes, no speaker has been turned out by his own colleagues in more than a century, and such an insurrection would mean the GOP’s ideological civil war would surely rage on.

But if he calls it quits, by relinquishing the speaker’s gavel or maybe even his congressional district in southwestern Ohio, that would be an outcome somewhere between those first two on the importance continuum. (All of these scenarios are predicated on the safe prediction that the GOP will retain control of the House for the 114th Congress.) While such a decision would assure a fascinating fight for the caucus leadership, it would say less about the party’s future than about Boehner’s fascinatingly evolving personality.

Still, it’s the “Boehner is about to hang it up” narrative that’s captivated the rumor mill this week. That talk is based on only one new piece of information, albeit an extremely important one: Tom Latham is retiring.

In a business where “good friend” is so often used ironically to describe a colleague who’s actually viewed with contempt, most members generally have few genuinely close personal friendships at the Capitol. Bonds with other lawmakers who can be trusted totally to keep both personal secrets and political confidences are hard to come by. They are cultivated sparingly and warily. And, for the most powerful members, welcoming a colleague to speak the unvarnished truth to power is a particularly rare invitation to intimacy.

Boehner actually has a relatively big cadre of congressional buddies who serve as both his crew and his council of elders. And almost no one disputes that Latham, who announced Tuesday that he wouldn’t run for an 11th House term in Iowa, is first among equals in the innermost circle.

These are the dozen or so men (and they are all men) with whom Boehner sneaks cigarettes or cigars, plays nonfundraiser golf and shares drinks before late-night votes in the Capitol Hill Club grill room. They listen to his annoyances, provide him moral support, offer candid political advice and proffer intelligence about the myriad melodramas that bubble up daily in the GOP conference. In private, they tell him what he doesn’t want to hear about a failing strategy or a ham-handed news conference performance. In public, they float his trial balloons, defend his decisions and combat challenges to his authority.

Latham’s decision means at least two of Boehner’s besties will be gone after next year; the other is Saxby Chambliss (like Latham, a member of the House GOP takeover Class of 1994), who is retiring after two terms as a Georgia senator. And a third extremely close confidant, Mike Simpson of Idaho, will be back in 2015 only if he survives a May primary against attorney Bryan Smith, one of the best-funded conservative challengers to a GOP incumbent.

Others in the core group, many of whom helped Boehner stage his upset comeback bid for the leadership in 2006, look sure to stick around: Pat Tiberi of Ohio, Greg Walden of Oregon, Pete Sessions of Texas, Charles Boustany Jr. of Louisiana and Doc Hastings of Washington in the House and, in the Senate, former House colleague Richard M. Burr of North Carolina.

But it is Latham’s surprise decision that has House insiders chattering. The speculation is that Latham’s acting something like a canary in the coal mine for his buddy — his leave taking a reliable sign that Boehner does not plan to stick around much longer, either.

Having rebuffed a heavy recruitment push to seek his state’s open Senate seat, Latham was a safe bet for re-election in Des Moines and southwestern Iowa, even though President Barack Obama carried his district twice. And he was set to become the No. 3 Republican on Appropriations next term. And so speculators are wondering: Why would Latham take early retirement — he’s 65, a year older than Boehner — except in the knowledge that his best friend had decided to do likewise?

The buzz got loud enough Wednesday that Boehner spokesman Michael Steel moved to tamp it down. “These rumors are silly,” he told The Daily Beast. “The speaker has been clear — publicly and privately — that he expects to be speaker in the next Congress.”

Latham aside, the circumstantial evidence suggests Boehner hasn’t popped the clutch yet. Before orchestrating last week’s 2-to-1 GOP majority for the year-ending budget deal, he filed petition papers for seeking his 13th term. (He has until Feb. 5 to make a final decision.) He posted a slick new video on his leadership website Tuesday, boasting that the House GOP has done its part to advance legislation that would spur the economy. The newest issue of Esquire even includes his crisp essay about the virtues of breakfasting in a diner.

The previous two GOP speakers, Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert, both secured their final re-elections before deciding to exit the leadership. Boehner has every incentive to repeat that pattern, winning one more term in Ohio before deciding for sure how to proceed in the Capitol.

One thing’s a pretty sure bet, though: You’ll never hear Boehner do what Harry Reid did Wednesday — talk about wanting to keep the keys to the corner office for another eight years.

  • ratmandu

    Boehner WILL NOT win re-election in his Ohio Congressional District. He will be primaried by the Tea Party and he has already been put on notice by said group ! Why do you think he is so suddenly hostile against them ?

    • infadelicious

      feet to the fire and/or a$$ to the curb………………PERIOD!!!!

    • Ratt Stone

      My hat is off to you Sir.

    • theotherRJH

      Ummmm…..yeah he will. With EASE I might add. I live in Ohio as well and I can tell you no Tea Partier will win that district. Way too much “old Cincinnati money” calls his district home. Only an establishment Republican can win there.

      I would like to see a Tea Partier win there but it’s never gonna happen.

      • Lets_Think_Again

        And I would love to see a Tea PaRty lunatic win the primary; the be CRUSHED in the voting there.

        • theotherRJH

          Hey…I want Boehner gone. It sucks and all those downvotes I got doesn’t make me wrong. He lives in West Chester, which is basically very old Cincinnati money. Those people in there are certainly not TP. I know you’d love to see that but it won’t happen. I know the area far too well.

    • Benjamin Dover

      That would be good; Boehner is a wimp who’s just not up to the fight.

      • Lets_Think_Again

        Yes, that would be good. Boehner will lose out in the primary to a Tea Party looney from the American Taliban who believes Dinosaurs sailed on the Ark; who believes there’s such a thing as “legitimate rape”; and who believes that government-ordered vaginal ultrasound probes are a form of “liberty” and “small government. Then the Tea Party looney from the American Taliban will lose the election to somebody sane. Thank God.

        • G. Wizard

          You are brainwashed fool.

          Do you balance your checkbook at home? Then why do you deride someone that wants to balance the checkbook of the country?

        • tpred

          Hey Lets_Think_Again. have you ever met any Tea Party Patriots or ever been anywhere near a group of Tea Partiers? I am and know hundreds of them and have been to several rallies. We are a very diverse group of people who work, mind our own business, pay our bills on time, obey the law, and believe in freedom, liberty, limitation on the oppressive power and runaway spending of the federal government and oppose socialism because it has failed everywhere it has been tried. That is what unifies us. People like you are the bigots who specialize in name calling and mischaracterizing people who have a different opinion than you.

    • mabramso

      Possible, but very doubtful. Most tea party members of Congress got there by winning an open seat. VERY few actually knock off incumbents. And I see no evidence of Boehner being in any serious danger.

    • Beeker

      Depending on how much money and the profile is raised, it is possible. The key will be election day.

    • Duane McDonald

      The tea bag gang should all go back to their Klaven and count sheets.

  • Benjamin Dover

    Those of the liberty school understand that voluntary associations of free men are capable of far more than detached central planners operating with inferior information and selfish political motives.

    • TRK113

      LOL. Oh, you were being serious?

      • Benjamin Dover

        Well, if central planning by politically-motivated apparatchiks were superior to liberty then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would be the world’s leading super-power.

        • KJ

          Actually, they would still be in power, had they figured out the secret to managing Capitalist Greed much sooner. They undid themselves, just like the Secret Politburo of America is doing now. Elitism can only survive for so long. There has never been a case of sustainable existence, in the history of the world. Just look at ALL of the supposedly “great” empires.

    • Lets_Think_Again

      This what passes for “thinking” and “philosophy” among these clowns?

  • jimhale

    Canary in a coal mine? Like the Speaker needs to check out retirement to see if it might be a good idea? Silly, indeed.

    What ever happened to the old House truism “All politics is local.”?

    In the case of these (usually) incumbents for life, all House politics are personal. If it is so well known that this retiree and the Speaker of the House are bosom buddies, the man could make a double-dipping bundle as a lobbyist in a near year.

    It could be as simple as that.

    • jimhale

      And that argues the Speaker is staying…..and determined to defeat the Tea Party in his primary.

      • Fthoma

        This is where it is all messed up. The Tea Party is not the enemy. If Boehner would just get out and talk to them one on one a lot of this conspiracy would evaporate. The Tea Party needs to realize that to become part of the big time they must recognize that a stalwart, moral stance is nice but not convincing. What needs to be recognized is that some stalwart stance on rape or abortion is a done deal loser. Leave the huff and puff at home and win an election or two. Then you can stick it to the voters the way Obama is trying to tuck it up our butt, violating any number of Constitutional clauses in his panic for a legacy. It’s Good To Be The King, and, if you are not, you can whine yourself to sleep tonight.

        • Lets_Think_Again

          The Tea Party IS the enemy. And those lies about the President of the United States are ludicrous — no informed American believes this Limbaugh trash.

  • Roger

    I didn’t know Harry Reid was retiring !!!

  • F Michael Addams

    HERE..!…OVER HERE.!..YOO HOO…!…bye -bye john,,see ya”..uh-huh..

  • Liberalism is Nonsense

    Unless an unwavering commitment to liberty is reinvigorated, democratic processes are at risk of being hijacked by a combination of those under the spells of collectivist illusions and those bribed by the spoils of plunder.

    • Opietheparrot

      It’s exactly the commitment to liberty that the Republican party has been fighting tooth and nail since before Reagan. They have been taking away your rights and working to make this an oligarchy. Amazing that there are people who don’t understand that.

    • voxetveritas

      collectivism is alive and well in your city, county, state and national government. collectivism builds your infrastructure. if you shun all things built by collectivism you will be naked, alone and in the dark in the backwoods. you pay your taxes to a collective. that collective builds streets, bridges, traffic signals and so on. the collective pays police that protect you and your goods. unless you plan to go live on a desert island you will always use services paid for by the collective. will you ever understand the concept? it’s never been about you but rather about all including you. in the words of a great man “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” pay your taxes and quit complaining as you use all the services and infrastructure. for God sake get a freakin’ clue before you write this drivel. every American started paying taxes to make this a better place like right after the Revolutionary War. before that American’s taxes went home to England to make life better for the Royals.

  • jeff898

    Hastert didn’t exit leadership voluntarily. When the Democrats took over the House in 2006, Hastert, although re-elected, lost the Speaker’s job as a result of the Democratic victory and chose not to run for the Minority Leader’s position which would have been a considerable step down for the self-important Hastert.

  • Bruno’s Beach

    While an advancing civilization is a cheerful and hearty one, a stationary one is dull and a declining one downright melancholy.

  • George Allegro

    Since liberty was not designed, but discovered, its benefits were mostly unknown until recognized and studied.

  • Benjamin Dover

    Since liberty enables the continuous mutually adjusting efforts of millions of people, free markets and free societies are able to make use of infinitely more knowledge than one mind, or a few minds, could ever hope to control.

  • The Roadster

    Much of what unfree countries have today is the result of technologies, ideas, and customs learned, transferred, or stolen from free nations.

  • Socialism is Organized Evil

    If we are to preserve liberty from the shackles of pseudo-science and centralized power, we must understand and abide by moral standards that transcend the rule of law.

    • voxetveritas

      hey socialismisorganizedevil…did you go to a public school? you’re a socialist. your community (sounds like commune or communist) paid for your education. do you drive on public roads? community tax payers paid for that. anything great that’s ever been built in this country was done by all the people working as a community. that by definition is socialism. it’s when the “state” or government takes money from the workers and uses that money for the benefit of those same people. the state buddy. not state like in Arkansas or Kentucky but state as in government. without government you would be eating sticks and berries on ancestral lands, naked and uneducated. we all make this work. it’s not about you, you, you but rather all of us working together as a society. ya dang ol’ socialist!

      • Lets_Think_Again

        Very true; and very well said, “voxveritas” (well named !!)

      • Opietheparrot

        Don’t forget the biggest socialist organization in the world, the pentagon.

        • voxetveritas

          yep we all pay for everything the Pentagon buys. weapons systems, troops and troop training, intelligence gathering etc. it’s all for a common good of course, but we all pay for it. every working man and woman in the country in the same way that the old Soviet Union did. Now it’s just Russia but the same holds true. some will argue that it’s not the same because we live in a free society, but things are funded in the same was as they are in a communist country like China or a socialist country like France.
          Subject: Re: New comment posted on With His BFF Leaving, Is Boehner Eyeing the Exit, Too?

          • KJ

            FEW common people will ever be able to grasp or accept the fact that BOTH are only simple variations on the same principle. The “freedom” they believe in, is less realistic & more a theory based façade, created by those in real control. The “freedoms” are doled out in doses, then, the control is either eased or reined in, depending on the needs of the powerful in order to manipulate the masses. Freedom is just a term used to describe the varying amounts of pressure being applied to the necks of the workers, by the Power Base. So few common people are truly aware of just how little “freedom” that they really have in this country. Or the fact that it can be taken away at any moment. NDAA is alive & peeking out of the closet, waiting to be sprung on the unknowing.

      • Socialism is Organized Evil

        Roads, security forces, and schools existed long before Karl Marx conjured up the primitive superstitions of socialism.

        • voxetveritas

          and where did he get the idea? from a system that worked. he simply applied the same principle to the extreme. of course that’s not what we want in the U.S. but there has to be a better balance of capitalism and socialism in order for things to work better than they are right now. what good is it to have the best medical technologies if only a small percentage can afford them? what good is unlimited freedom if your lifespan is so short?
          Subject: Re: New comment posted on With His BFF Leaving, Is Boehner Eyeing the Exit, Too?

          • Socialism is Organized Evil

            Why do you use marxist words like capitalism and socialism?

            The marxist premises and conclusions have been proven absurd.

          • voxetveritas

            they are English words that mean something. a dictionary won’t list them as Marxist in origin or use. a dictionary is a book that explains the meaning of words. try one sometime. both of these words have concepts that have been proven to be useful and practical In modern society. ooops…there’s a form of one of those words again. I’m afraid you’ll have to use the dictionary again. but you are correct in that pure Marxism cannot work. only a blend of capitalism and socialism as we have employed to varying degrees here in America can work. I’m only saying that it’s time to adjust the formula again.
            Subject: Re: New comment posted on With His BFF Leaving, Is Boehner Eyeing the Exit, Too?

          • KJ

            The spoon fed, brainwashed, can’t grasp that much intelligent theory. They’re too hung up on false concepts & mind bending rhetoric spewed by those that wear the Party masks.

    • Lets_Think_Again

      That perfectly sums up the vile, horribly misinformed, basically mad extremist ideology of the Tea Party.

      • Socialism is Organized Evil

        Any way you slice it, today’s liberalism is juvenile nonsense.

    • Opietheparrot

      Ah yes, pseudo science, like creationism and climate change denial. By Jove, I think you got it.
      And moral standards are always in flux and are vastly different from culture to culture. Does that mean we should ditch the law for standards that differ from day to day?

      • Socialism is Organized Evil

        There’s no serious difference between today’s liberals and their socialist, marxist, and communist ancestors.

        • Opietheparrot

          Which proves beyond a doubt that you have no idea what you’re talking about and are just an incredibly dumb person.

        • KJ

          Dang ! Have you sent out the invitations to your Graduation from the Tea Party U. yet ?

  • tightloops

    It will be a far bigger deal if the GOP does not vote him out! If he doesn’t go, they surely will! My only wish is they he would take all of his House leadership with him!! What a worthless lot of self-serving elitists. They every bit as bad as the Democrats.

    • KJ

      And this poster represents the “informed Republican voters”. lol.

  • Mark C

    No speaker has been turned out by his colleagues in more than a century? Are you a complete idiot? What do you think happened to Gingrich?

  • voxetveritas

    spoken like a tea partier from Texas…the state with the lowest education rankings in the nation. the redder Texas gets, the lower the test scores go. it’s no coincidence. you tea partiers have only weakened the GOP. keep on and you will be kneeling to Queen Hillary. I don’t wanna hear you whining when that happens. you have only your dear tea party to blame. it’s like Ross Perot in ’92 only worse for the GOP than that man. Bill had Perot to thank for his win over Bush 41. Hillary will have the tea party to thank. I wish clearer minds would prevail instead of these insipid, racist hillbillies

  • Lets_Think_Again

    We’ll better off without Boehner — and all the rest of the callous, greedy far-right wreckers in the House of Representatives

  • Evan Grantham-Brown

    Yawn. More of the same “OMG IS BOEHNER QUITTING?” stuff we’ve seen floating around for months. No, he’s not quitting. He will surrender the gavel when a) the Republicans lose the House, b) some other Republican stages a coup, or c) he himself loses his seat.

  • Trustme

    Boehner never arrived

  • tomfiore

    It seemed to me months ago that he was just working at maintaining the speakership until the end of this term and then would let all of the back biters have at it. From the beginning of his speakership he had enough support to get the position, but not enough to do his job. Whine all you want about Nancy Pelosi, but at least she leads her caucus.

  • KJ

    Does it really matter which “Face” is in that position ? It won’t change the constipated BS, that spews from the Puppet’s Mouthpiece.

  • gezzr

    One could ONLY hope this feckless cl0wn would IMMEDIATELY retire!!!

  • Michael Harlow

    Boehner needs to go, and I wish he would be quick about it. He’s no leader and he has no idea about who his real political enemies are, its NOT the Tea Party caucus.

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