UNDER FIRE: Boehner Re-Elected Speaker
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Rep. John Boehner was voted by his colleagues into another term as House speaker Thursday despite receiving harsh criticism from some conservatives over his handling of the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.
There were a few scattered votes for other names – defeated Rep. Allen West, the tea party favorite from Florida, and GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor both received nods – but the vast majority of Republicans in the House shouted Boehner’s name when called upon by the House reading clerk. In total, 220 Republicans out of a conference of 234 went for the Ohio Republican during the tension-filled vote on the House floor.
Some GOP lawmakers didn’t answer, or simply voted “present,” when called to vote. In total 12 Republicans declined to vote for Boehner — a tiny percentage, but still the largest number opposing the re-election of a House speaker in recent history.
In his speech to the newly convened 113th Congress, Boehner alluded to the nation’s massive federal debt, saying it was placing the well-being of the country in peril. Despite furious negotiations with President Barack Obama last year, Boehner was unable to develop a so-called “grand bargain” to reduce the national debt.
Despite those past challenges, Boehner told newly elected lawmakers it was their job to ensure progress gets made.
“We are sent here not to be something, but to do something — to do the right thing,” he said. “It’s a big job, and it comes with big challenges.”
“Public service was never meant to be an easy living,” he said later. “Extraordinary challenges demand extraordinary leadership. So if you have come here to see your name in lights or to pass off political victory as accomplishment, you have come to the wrong place. The door is behind you.”
Some Republicans walking into the House chamber voiced frustration at Boehner’s performance as speaker, though the majority said they were supporting him for another two years in the role.
Rep. Justin Amash, a Mississippi conservative who had his Budget Committee assignment removed at the end of last Congress, put forth Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho as a potential speaker. And Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who also had his committee assignment removed, said he was casting a vote against Boehner based on “past performance.”
Huelskamp cast his vote for conservative Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio – who told CNN on his way into the chamber that he was supporting Boehner.
Amash urged members to vote for someone other than Boehner in the hopes of pushing the speaker vote to second ballot, a fellow Republican, Rep. Walter Jones, said following Boehner’s re-election. Amash wanted members to “see what other opportunities we might have,” Jones told reporters outside the House floor, though he said he didn’t press for a particular candidate.
Jones, like Amash and Huelskamp, is still angry about having his committee assignment revoked without any heads up at the end of the last Congress — he said Thursday he “had to read about it on the internet.”
Jones said Boehner didn’t ask for his vote.
“He needs to call and ask for my vote,” Jones said. “He didn’t ask me.”
On the Democratic side, Rep. Jim Cooper bucked his party’s leader Nancy Pelosi to cast a vote for former Secretary of State Colin Powell (being a member of Congress is not a requirement to be elected speaker). Pelosi received a total of 192 votes.
House GOP leaders were confident in Boehner’s re-election as they entered the chamber, telling reporters it was all but impossible for another representative to take the gavel.
Boehner himself told CNN he was confident the House would re-elect him speaker, but conceded a few fellow Republicans would likely vote against him.
When CNN asked Majority Leader Eric Cantor if Boehner would be re-elected he replied “absolutely.”
House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy, the number three House Republican, also told reporters he was sure Boehner would be re-elected speaker.
Asked what he thought of all the drama surrounding Thursday’s vote, McCarthy replied, “Makes for good press, doesn’t it?”
And House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, the vice presidential candidate in last year’s election, make a skeptical “pshaw” when asked if Boehner would be challenged for his post.
Ryan downplayed what it would mean if members voted against Boehner, saying “that happens all the time,” noting he’s been in Congress eight terms and “it just happens.”
CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.