In one of the closest votes in more than a decade, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio was reelected as Speaker of the House in one of the first acts of the new Congress, beating former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California by a total of 28 votes, 220-192.
In the new House, Republicans hold a 33 seat advantage, 234 to 201—meaning neither Boehner nor Pelosi got unanimous support in their party.
Though his speakership was never really in doubt—particularly since no other Republican mounted a real challenge—Boehner has been the target of blistering criticism over the last few days, even from members of his own party. After failing to reach a deal he found acceptable in fiscal cliff negotiations with President Obama, Boehner was embarrassed by renegade conservatives in his own party when he couldn’t get enough support to pass his plan B, which would have raised taxes on millionaires while protecting lower income levels from tax increases.
He then capped off the ugliness by failing to bring before the House a measure to provide billions in disaster aid to the Northeast for Hurricane Sandy—a measure that had already passed the Senate. This came after Boehner had already promised governors, mayors and Congress members from hard-hit states that he would introduce the bill as soon as the fiscal cliff was resolved. But after the fiscal cliff measure went through, Boehner left without putting up the Sandy bill. He would later say he didn’t want to be seen as proposing such a large spending measure on the same day as the Republicans had complained so bitterly about excessive federal spending—but his explanation was too late to stop Republicans and Democrats alike from the Northeast from blasting away.
It was “disappointing and disgusting to watch,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said, referring to “the toxic internal politics of the House majority.”
“New Jersey deserves better than the duplicity we saw on display,” he said, adding, “shame on Congress.”
Christie said he had tried to reach Boehner on Tuesday night after the aid vote was postponed.
“He did not take my calls,” Christie said.
Christie said he and fellow New Jerseyans felt “betrayed” and added that the move summarizes “why the American people hate Congress.”
Even New York Congressman Peter King, a staunch Republican loyalist, attacked Boehner.
But all is fine among the House GOP now, after Boehner announced that lawmakers will consider $9 billion in immediate assistance for flood insurance and will weigh another $51 billion in broader aid on January 15.
“We’re getting what New York and New Jersey need, and that’s all that counts,” Rep. Peter King, R-New York, told reporters after emerging from a 20-minute meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “We’re all big boys. We understand that all that counts is the bottom line.”
“John is really a voice of reason in our conference, despite some of the things I said yesterday,” King told NBC’s “Today.”
Boehner is sometimes mocked for being overly emotional, so it was no surprise when he shed a tear after the speaker vote.
“Our government has built up too much debt. Our economy is not producing enough jobs. These are not separate problems,” Boehner said. “At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of state.”
In describing Boehner’s job, Representative Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, repeated the line first uttered by former Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist: “It’s a lot like being a caretaker of a cemetery — a lot of people under you but nobody listens.”