Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) is trying to foment a long-shot Democratic rebellion against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that would install House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in her place after the November elections.
The scenario, as Simpson sees it, runs like this: Democrats lose a bunch of seats but cling to a narrow majority. If a handful of Democrats withhold their votes for Pelosi, Democrats would have to put up another candidate, or else Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) would become Speaker.
“I’m trying to help Steny,” Simpson said with a smile. “If it gets close enough, six or eight Blue Dogs could make the difference,” he added, referring to the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative House Democrats.
Simpson said a similar dynamic toppled Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) from the Speaker’s post after losses in the 1998 elections left Republicans clinging to a narrow majority.
Simpson tried to recruit Rep. Walt Minnick (Idaho), one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, to back the idea during a plane trip home in May.
The Idaho Statesman reported last month that Minnick declined to discuss his conversation with Simpson but left open the possibility of voting for someone other than Pelosi. Minnick also noted in an interview with the Idaho Statesman that the Speaker is elected by the whole House, not just the ruling party.
Aides to Pelosi and Hoyer, however, dismissed Simpson’s plotting as baseless partisan mischief.
“Mike Simpson is trying to cause trouble here, but no Democrat has indicated that they wouldn’t support the Speaker,” Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said. “There is nothing to this story.”
“Mr. Hoyer is focused on keeping the House in Democratic hands and being Majority Leader in the next Congress,” Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant said.
Hoyer, indeed, hasn’t given any hint of challenging the Speaker. He has appeared at peace with his role as her No. 2 several years after the top two Democrats waged a fierce leadership battle when Democrats were still in the minority.
Simpson didn’t deny his attempt at troublemaking. He said his idea was his own and not some grand Republican plan.
“I’m just lobbing hand grenades,” he said with a chuckle.