House minority leader John Boehner undoubtedly wants Nancy Pelosi’s Speaker position.
Though the Republican has urged his party peers not to get too excited about polls indicating a GOP takeover this fall, his speeches and remarks over the past few months make his political intentions quite clear. They also reveal a private dispute with the Republican Young Guns, especially Eric Cantor, a man whose power and PAC threaten Boehner’s position as top dog.
Famously tan Boehner has made two big policy speeches in as many weeks, one on the economy and one on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which offered specific policy points. “I support our counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, but the president must do more to emphasize his commitment to ensuring its success rather than focusing on arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal,” Boehner said of Afghanistan.
As Chris Good from The Atlantic points out, these speeches represent a marked shift in the Republican’s approach. “Boehner has worked to obstruct the Democratic agenda since the Democratic takeover of 2006,” writes Good. “He’s now transitioning into a mode of policy-making, one that sets him up as a Republican counterweight to the president—because if Republicans take over the House, that’s what the new Speaker will be.” These speeches aren’t the first time Boehner has hinted at a Republican resurgence, and how the House would change under his rule.
Back in February, Ohio-based Boehner guaranteed legislative reforms in the House should Republicans win the majority. “If you will help me elect a Republican majority this November, we will be open, we will be transparent and we will listen,” he told reporters.
A senior House aide remarked more recently, “House members have a pent-up desire to legislate … instead of having bills written in the speaker’s office.” These comments are just as much for a populist public as they are for Minority whip Cantor and his Young Guns, all of whom sit on powerful, and power hungry, committees.
The Republican party rejoiced this week when Cantor and fellow Reps. Kevin McCarthy of California and Paul Ryan of Wisconisn officially launched their Young Gun initiative. Billed as a breath of fresh air for the party, the Young Gun program hopes to establish a new face, and future for the Republican party, all laid out in a book being published by Simon and Schuster.
In that book, poor Boehner’s only mentioned three times, and conservative writer Fred Barnes‘ introduction floats the idea of Cantor as Speaker. Though that’s unlikely, a Republican win would almost guarantee Cantor a spot as the House majority leader, and Boehner needs to make sure the Representative remains an ally, rather than a contender.
Boehner has a lot to worry about when it comes to Cantor and the Young Guns. All three sit on powerful committees: Ryan sits on the both Budget and Ways and Means Committees, McCarthy, the party’s chief deputy whip, sits on the Housing and Financial Committees, while Cantor also sits on the Ways and Means Committee. Boehner needs to win these men over, particularly Cantor, who poses the most threat to Boehner’s standing.
Cantor’s PAC, Every Republican Counts, remains the most affluent, influential of all leadership PACs, Republican or Democrat. Boehner, a young gun during the 1994 Republican Revolution, and his Freedom Project PAC once held the top slot in the leadership category, but it only took Cantor, first elected in 2000, a few short years to catch up with the elder lawmakers’ PAC.
Since 2006, Freedom Project has faced stiff competition from Cantor, whose PAC has raised $2.8 million this year, while Boehner’s has only raked in $2.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. More importantly, however, Cantor’s giving far more to Republican candidates than Boehner: $1,167,096, compared to $804,025.
Money talks in politics, and Cantor is doing his best to shore up as much GOP support as possible, leaving Boehner in the dust—or, actually, on the golf course.
By promising reforms in the House, Boehner’s signaling to Cantor and company that he will share the rewards of a Republican victory. His rhetoric’s meant to keep these Young Guns, or whipper snappers, on the straight and narrow. So far it seems to be working: Cantor came out last month in support of a Boehner Speaker position.
Politics, however, is an ever-evolving game, and Boehner will definitely use the next few weeks before midterm elections to tell the Young Guns he has their back in order to make sure they have his, because if they don’t, Boehner doesn’t stand a chance.
Image via Republican Conference’s Flickr.