WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to once again make John Boehner its speaker, handing the Ohio Republican the gavel for the third time despite a late challenge by dissatisfied members of his own party. Tuesday's vote saw the most votes against a sitting speaker since 1923.
In the final tally, Boehner received the votes of 216 House members, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) got 164 votes. More than two dozen discontented Republicans, however, voted for other candidates, including 12 who unexpectedly backed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.).
Boehner's GOP caucus had unanimously chosen him as speaker just after November's elections. However, he soon faced a rebellion from conservative members who were angry that Boehner pushed through a government spending bill in December that didn't extract concessions from President Barack Obama on immigration or the Affordable Care Act.
The full House of Representatives votes for the new speaker at the start of each new Congress.
The rebellion was led by Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), who both challenged Boehner for the speakership. They argued that the current GOP leadership had turned its back on the principles of the voters who chose to seat a Republican House and Senate for the first time in eight years. Yoho, despite his challenge to Boehner, raised money for the speaker in October.
"There have been numerous examples of problematic Republican leadership, but we were hopeful our leaders got the voters’ message," Gohmert said in a statement ahead of the formal vote, pointing to the so-called "cromnibus" spending bill that funds most of the government through September, which is at the center of the current conservative dissatisfaction with Boehner. "However, after our Speaker forced through the CRomnibus by passing it with Democratic votes and without time to read it, it seemed clear that we needed new leadership."
In total, the dissatisfied Republicans offered up three alternatives to Boehner -- Gohmert, who received three votes, Yoho, who tallied two, as well as Webster. Webster's showing was something of a surprise, but he served as speaker of the Florida state legislature in the late 1990s and may have been seen as a more credible option than the colorful Gohmert and Yoho.
Other protest votes were also cast, including for people who are not in the House.
While the insurrection gained little traction, it does signal that Boehner could be in for a rough couple of years. The members who opposed him comprise a larger bloc than the dozen who opposed him two years ago at the start of the 113th Congress. And during the four years that Boehner has led the House, he lost control of his caucus a number of times, finding himself forced to pull key bills from the floor when he failed to muster votes that he thought he could deliver.
Indeed, the fact that so many were willing to publicly embarrass Boehner on the first day of his new term at least serves as notice that the more hard-line members of his base will not give him a free hand, and will insist on being consulted when key pieces of legislation are being passed.
Boehner seemed to acknowledge as much on Tuesday, even as he offered an olive branch to his own members.
"This won't be done in a tidy way," Boehner said. "The battle of ideas never ends and frankly never should. As speaker, I'll ask -- and frankly expect -- that we disagree without being disagreeable. In return, I pledge to help each of you carry out your duties. My door, of course, is always open. Now, don't get carried away with it, all right, but it's always open."
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who voted against Boehner, said he was "surprised" that the rebellion failed.
"We wanted to send a message. The American people are very upset by the leadership," Jones told reporters after the vote. "I think the 25 of us who voted the way we did -- we represented the frustration of the American people."
The spending bill passed in December, Jones added, was what "really ticked off the American people." He also noted that members were only given 72 hours to comb through 1,600 pages. "That's not what's in the best interests of the people," he said.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a close ally of Boehner's, said the defections were "disappointing" but chalked some of it up to members wanting to score points with the "right-wing" while knowing that the speaker would be re-elected anyway.
"The biggest danger here is how you're regarded by the other members in the conference. I think you lose some of your effectiveness," Cole told reporters. "To me, it's sort of amateur hour when you do this … I do think you marginalize yourself when you cast these sort of votes."
Still, the GOP insurgents will likely make their presence felt as soon as the end of this month, when the House will begin work on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for implementing most of Obama's immigration policy. The conservative rebels will also be significant in the spring, when Congress must again raise the nation's debt limit in order to be able to pay its bills.
While Boehner did not directly acknowledge the insurrection, he did admit that the legislative process over the next two years would not always be pretty, even as he pledged to do better than before.
"The pessimists don't see us crossing this channel. They say nothing's going to be accomplished here, that the division is wider than ever and so gridlock will be even greater," said a characteristically emotional-looking Boehner after accepting the gavel from Pelosi. "Frankly, fair enough. The skepticism of our government is healthy and in our time quite understandable. But one problem with saying it can't be done is that it already has been done. Or at least started."
This story has been updated.