Minority Leader John Boehner is about to get a huge promotion.
The fall of the Democratic majority means the Ohio Republican is poised to become Speaker, completing a decade-long climb back to power after he was cast out of the GOP leadership in the aftermath of the 1998 elections.
“I can tell you this, if we are lucky enough to be the majority of the Congress and I’m lucky enough to be the next Speaker of the House, it’s going to be real different,” Boehner said during a campaign stop in Ohio over the weekend. “And not just different than what Democrats are doing today but differently than what Republicans did in the past.”
Boehner began building his campaign for Speaker eight months ago, outlining ways that he would redirect the House if Republicans took back the majority.
Now that he has achieved that goal, his challenge will be implementing the aggressive reforms outlined in the GOP’s “Pledge to America” agenda, such as repealing the health care reform legislation, cutting federal spending, limiting taxes and simplifying the legislative process.
Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), the chairman of Republican leadership, said Tuesday he was confident Boehner would make good on his promises and his Speakership would be “a breath of fresh air to the House.”
“I think both parties will welcome returning the House to a truly deliberative legislative body,” he said.
It’s all but certain Boehner will assume the Speakership; no one else has even hinted at a challenge.
“He is a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of guy,” said Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), who will be Boehner’s presumptive choice for Rules chairman in the 112th Congress.
Boehner wasn’t always considered a Republican insider. After being elected to the House in 1990, Boehner and his fellow gang of seven members were rebels who took on the House establishment and advocated for broad disclosure of the names of Members who had abused the House Bank. By 1994, Boehner, already seen as an up-and-comer, was brought into the leadership fold by incoming Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
After being defeated in his bid for reelection as GOP Conference chairman in the aftermath of the 1998 elections — in which Republicans lost seats despite President Bill Clinton’s pending impeachment trial — Boehner retreated to the Education and Workforce Committee. In that role, Boehner was known for operating a broad member services program, which is unusual for a committee chairman, but helped him build alliances and plan his return to leadership.
His most widely known accomplishment at the education panel was crafting the No Child Left Behind Act along with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).
Since he began his tenure as the Republican leader in the House, a position he won in 2006, Boehner has surrounded himself with longtime political allies but has taken care to bring potential adversaries into leadership as well.
Many expect Boehner to again take an active role in avoiding contentious leadership races, as he did in 2008 when he pulled Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) into leadership to defuse attacks from the right and endorsed Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) to supplant Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“He doesn’t necessarily need to placate certain divisions because there aren’t that many competitive chairmanships,” one veteran Republican lobbyist said.
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