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Wed Jan 2, 2013, 11:33 PM

"Ousting the speaker: House Republicans' long history of regicide"

Interesting story talking about the growing propensity of Republicans to take out their leaders. If anything, this underscores why Boehner has been such a weak speaker who has been willing to let a radicalized minority of the House set the agenda. At best, Boehner is merely a reasonable sounding figurehead for the nihilistic members of the Republican House. While a more extreme Republican Speaker could overtake Boehner, at least it could serve to take the lipstick off of the pig that has become the heart of the Republican party,

The question is how can anyone negotiate on behalf of the Republican party when there is someone out there who is ready to usurp you by claiming that they are even more purely right wing than the current Speaker. If anything the threat of a backstabbing will render Boehner even more ineffective as a spokesperson for the House majority when it comes to negotiations. Thus, expect another endless stream of symbolic votes designed to pander to and please the radical right.


After a painful rejection by his own party in his attempt to pass a bill to avoid the fiscal cliff, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is at the center of ouster talks. While Boehner is undoubtedly still in a strong position, past history might give him some reasons to worry. House Republicans have had a propensity, throughout the 20th century, for periodically getting rid of their leaders.

Tossing out a speaker is in many ways a drastic measure because, unlike other congressional leaders, the Speaker of the House has demonstrable power over the institution. In one of the many ironies of American politics, the House of Representatives, which was intended to channel voters' opinions, has been a top-down, leadership driven branch of government, in contrast to the historical every-Senator-for-himself model on the other side of the Capitol. Due to this top-down structure, the speaker, unlike the majority leader of the Senate (frequently referred to derisively as the majority pleader), can bend the chamber to his or her will.

Nevertheless, speakers occasionally have had to ward off intra-party threats to their power. These attacks are unusual in The Ambition and the Power, John Barry compares overthrowing a speaker or minority leader to regicide. And, perhaps surprisingly, all of the successful overthrows have been on the Republican side of the aisle.

The most notable of which was Newt Gingrich, who was originally revered for leading the party back to the promised land of the majority after 40 years in the minority, but then had a very rocky tenure. Gingrich was forced out right after the party's unexpectedly poor showing in 1998. It wasn't even the first coup that Gingrich had to deal with in 1997, other members, including Boehner, looked to toss him out, but failed.

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