The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The end of John Boehner’s speakership? Don’t count on it.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) lost on Wednesday. Big time. But contrary to doomsday predictions, it doesn't mean his days as speaker are numbered.

For weeks, Boehner held firm, standing with the cast-iron conservative members who demanded he use the budget debate to try to shred President Obama's health-care law. Up until the day before final passage of a deal that gave Democrats a big win, Boehner and his deputies were still searching for ways to take aim at the health-care law.

His efforts, futile as they were, didn't fall on deaf ears.

"I heard some of the talking heads talking about how folks that don't agree with Boehner are going to try to do something to hasten his demise. I certainly don't feel that way," said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) Wednesday night on CNN.

"It's not always about winning," Salmon concluded. "Sometimes it's about trying."

Even some of Boehner's harshest critics acknowledged that ousting him doesn't look likely.

"I don’t see that happening anytime soon in today’s Congress," Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) told Newsmax TV. Huelskamp voted against Boehner for speaker in Janurary.

Said conservative Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), per RealClearPolitics: "I don’t think Speaker Boehner has anything to worry about right now."

Boehner, to hear Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) tell it, is "100 percent stronger."

All three were among the 144 out of 231 House Republicans who on Wednesday voted voted against the bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. The bill passed thanks to unified Democratic support and the backing of 87 Republicans.

Viewed through one lens, Boehner's capitulation to a bill that made no major changes to the health-care law was an outcome that was presaged weeks ago and a fate he could have accepted last month, thereby averting a government shutdown and avoiding a near-catastrophe on the nation's debt. And that will probably leave many people scratching their heads and asking why he didn't do it.

But viewed another way, Boehner did just what he had to do to prove his mettle to a skeptical and often unruly conference. They demanded a crusade against Obamacare. He gave it to them. They didn't want to back down even on the precipice of a shutdown. He didn't. With his back against the wall, Boehner demonstrated his loyalty until the point the macroeconomic and political costs simply became too much to bear.

Imagine for a second that he hadn't done all this. Imagine he instead refused to go along with conservatives' strong desire to fight Obamacare, and decided weeks ago to bring a Democratic-friendly bill to the floor and pass it with mostly Democratic votes. He simply would not have earned the praise he received from rank and file Republicans. No chance. He would have faced anger and lots of it.

Not everyone is satisfied. In the coming days, conservatives inside and outside the halls of Congress will no doubt vent their frustrations with the speaker. There are lots of questions about Boehner's leadership moving forward and how much (or little) power he has.

But despite all the discord he's presided over, Boehner is still viewed as the leader -- inside and outside of the House. More than 20 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents say they view him as the leader of the party, according to a Pew Research Center poll. That's more than double the percentage who said the same thing in June.

"The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country's debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare," Boehner said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

The fight Boehner mentioned was also a fight for his future as speaker. And for that reason, his battle over the budget and debt ceiling wasn't all for naught.


Obama signed the bill to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling early Thursday morning.

Wondering what exactly the fiscal deal does? Click here.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) voted against the bill.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) is now Sen.-elect Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

He also spent less than $1 million on TV advertising.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) will launch a policy-focused nonprofit.

The DSCC outraised the NRSC in September.


"House conservatives face up to their defeat" -- David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

"Boehner and his majority are in disarray" -- Paul Kane, Washington Post

"Obama plans to renew immigration, climate change efforts" -- Scott Wilson and Juliet Eilperin, Washignton Post

"Losing a Lot to Get Little" -- Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times

"House Conservatives Gird for Next Budget Battles" -- Patrick O'Connor, Wall Street Journal