As John Boehner finally got the votes to put him over the top, and his re-election as Speaker of the House became official, one had to wonder what was going on in his mind.
If Boehner has had a rough two years in trying to keep his fellow Republicans on the same page in their battles with President Obama, he endured a miserable couple of weeks in the lead up to the fiscal cliff agreement. His dealings with Obama went nowhere. His suggested "Plan B" ended in humiliation as he failed to realize the depth of the opposition from his own party. He was forced to relinquish his role in the final negotiations to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, then stood by as the measure — which raised taxes on the wealthy but failed to include corresponding spending cuts — came back to the House for a vote. It passed with an overwhelming majority of Republicans voting no, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Whip Kevin McCarthy. Boehner voted for it.
For good measure, he was excoriated by some Republicans from New York and New Jersey (including Gov. Chris Christie) for postponing a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief aid. Cognizant of the unrest in his party, he was not about to push for a big spending bill after the fiscal cliff vote, though the resulting outrage forced him to bend.
The final indignity came during Thursday's vote for speaker, where Boehner failed to get the vote of 12 Republicans — more defections than Newt Gingrich ever experienced.
But is Boehner really damaged goods? From Day One of his speakership, he has had to balance getting things done with trying to accommodate the wishes of the Tea Party crowd that put his party in the majority in the first place. Many of these Tea Party folks wear ideological purity as a badge of honor, preferring defeat to compromise, and Boehner has never been accused of being a purist. Sure, he could have led the GOP charge to go over the cliff, but then what? Which party would have gotten the blame? I thought so. And let's not forget that the final fiscal cliff deal makes the Bush tax cuts permanent for those earning under $450,000 a year — a situation Obama said he would never accept and Democrats promised they would fight tooth and nail.
Getting back to the original question: What do you think was going through Boehner's mind Thursday as he took the gavel from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to begin a second term as speaker? Was he gratified? Was he looking over his shoulder at conspirators, real or imagined, like Cantor or someone else? And even if he was feeling a bit of relief, it's just a temporary calm; for all the ubiquitous self-congratulating high-fives that followed last week's cliff vote, we're probably going to go through another ringer next month with the fight over raising the debt limit. Sometimes you wonder if the job is really worth it. But it's unfair and incorrect to say that he came out a big loser in the aftermath of it all.
At least he got to tell Harry Reid what he was thinking.
Democratic unity in Massachusetts? It is pretty remarkable that Senate Republicans seem far more supportive of confirming Sen. John Kerry (D) for secretary of state than they do of Chuck Hagel, a Republican ex-senator from Nebraska, for defense. But that's another story.
Right now, the focus is on the special election that will follow once Kerry goes to Foggy Bottom. Rep. Ed Markey (D), the senior member of the Massachusetts delegation — he was first elected in 1976 — says he's running. Markey has long been urged to seek statewide office, but only once, in 1984, did he jump at an opportunity. And his interest in the seat of the retiring Sen. Paul Tsongas (D) didn't last long, as he quickly dropped out. (That was the race Kerry won.) Now he not only wants it, but the Democratic establishment, both in D.C. and home, seems to be in his corner. That doesn't mean that other Democrats, such as Mike Capuano or Stephen Lynch — Markey's House colleagues — won't get in. But Lynch's anti-abortion views may not play well in a primary, and Capuano is already 0-for-1 in Senate bids; he lost the 2009 special primary in the aftermath of Ted Kennedy's death.
By nearly all accounts, Scott Brown will be the Republican nominee. Just two months after he was defeated in his re-election bid by Elizabeth Warren, Brown has said Markey's candidacy makes another run "tempting." The truth is, the GOP doesn't have many other options.
(And here's a question from WBUR reporter Curt Nickisch: If Brown runs, it would be his third Senate campaign within four years. Would that be a record?)
Meanwhile, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is expected to name a short-term replacement once Kerry leaves, and last week Barney Frank, who just retired after 32 years in the House, said he wants the interim appointment. He says he won't run in the special election.
... And a stunner in Hawaii. Everyone thought Rep. Colleen Hanabusa was a lock to replace the late Dan Inouye in the Senate. Shortly before he died, Inouye made it clear in a letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie that he wanted Hanabusa to be his successor. But Abercrombie shocked everyone by instead naming his lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz.
There were several reasons why he went with Schatz. One, at 40, he's some two decades younger than Hanabusa, and Abercrombie wanted someone who could stay in the Senate for a long time; losing Inouye and fellow Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka, who just retired, ended a combined 72 years of seniority for Hawaii. The governor also knew that pulling Hanabusa out of the House would lead to a special election, giving the GOP a shot.
Plus, Schatz had made many friends when he chaired the state Democratic Party, including forging a close bond with Abercrombie.
But there were always questions about the governor's relationship with Inouye, who in fact made it clear that he was no fan of Abercrombie's run in 2010. And this was, after all, Abercrombie's call. Not Inouye's.
Schatz says he will run again in the 2014 special election; the seat will be up once more in 2016, when Inouye's term would have expired. Meanwhile, disappointed Hanabusa supporters are threatening Abercrombie with a challenge in next year's primary.
New Members of Congress. Here's a complete listing of the new members of the 113th Congress, sorted alphabetically by state:
Senate — Jeff Flake (R). In House since 2001. Defeated Richard Carmona (D) for seat of Jon Kyl (R), who retired.
Ann Kirkpatrick (D-01). In House 2009-10, defeated after one term. New district.
Matt Salmon (R-05). In House 1995-2000, retired. GOP nominee for governor in 2002. Succeeds Jeff Flake (R), who was elected to the Senate.
Kyrsten Sinema (D-09). New district.
House -- Tom Cotton (R-04). Succeeds Mike Ross (D), who retired.
House (many California House districts were radically redrawn) --
Doug LaMalfa (R-01). Succeeds Wally Herger (R-old 02), who retired.
Jared Huffman (D-02). Succeeds Lynn Woolsey (D-old 06), who retired.
Ami Bera (D-07). Defeated Rep. Dan Lungren (R-old 03).
Paul Cook (R-08). Succeeds Jerry Lewis (R-old 41), who retired.
Eric Swalwell (D-15). Defeated Rep. Pete Stark (D-old 13) in Dem vs. Dem runoff.
David Valadao (R-21). New district.
Julia Brownley (D-26). Succeeds Elton Gallegly (R-old 24), who retired.
Tony Cardenas (D-29). New district.
Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-35). Defeated Rep. Joe Baca (D-old 43) in Dem vs. Dem runoff.
Raul Ruiz (D-36). Defeated Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-old 45).
Mark Takano (D-41). New district.
Alan Lowenthal (D-47). New district.
Juan Vargas (D-51). Succeeds Bob Filner (D-old 51), who retired (and was elected mayor of San Diego).
Scott Peters (D-52). Defeated Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-old 50).
Senate — Chris Murphy (D). In House since 2007. Defeated Linda McMahon (R) for seat of Joe Lieberman (I), who retired.
House — Elizabeth Esty (D). Succeeds Chris Murphy (D), who was elected to the Senate.
Ted Yoho (R-03). Succeeds Cliff Stearns (R), whom he defeated in the GOP primary.
Ron DeSantis (R-06). New district.
Alan Grayson (D-09). In House 2009-10, defeated after one term. New district.
Patrick Murphy (D-18). Defeated Rep. Allen West (R).
Trey Radel (R-19). Succeeds Connie Mack IV (R), who lost a Senate bid.
Lois Frankel (D-22). New district.
Joe Garcia (D-26). Defeated Rep. David Rivera (R).
House — Doug Collins (R-09). New district.
Mazie Hirono (D). In House since 2007. Defeated Linda Lingle (R) for seat of Daniel Akaka (D), who retired.
Brian Schatz (D). Lt. Gov. since 2011. Appointed to fill the seat of the late Daniel Inouye (D).
House — Tulsi Gabbard (D-02). Succeeds Mazie Hirono (D), who was elected to the Senate.
Tammy Duckworth (D-08). Defeated Rep. Joe Walsh (R).
Brad Schneider (D-10). Defeated Rep. Robert Dold (R).
Bill Foster (D-11). In House 2008-10, lost in bid for second full term to Randy Hultgren (R). Defeated Rep. Judy Biggert (R).
Bill Enyart (D-12). Succeeds Jerry Costello (D), who retired.
Rodney Davis (R-13). Succeeds Timothy Johnson (R), who retired.
Cheri Bustos (D-17). Defeated Rep. Bobby Schilling (R).
Senate — Joe Donnelly (D). In House since 2007. Defeated Richard Mourdock (R), who beat Sen. Dick Lugar in the GOP primary.
Jackie Walorski (R-02). Succeeds Joe Donnelly (D), who was elected to the Senate.
Susan Brooks (R-05). Succeeds Dan Burton (R), who retired.
Luke Messer (R-06). Succeeds Mike Pence (R), who was elected governor.
Thomas Massie (R-04). Succeeds Geoff Davis (R), who resigned.
Andy Barr (R-06). Defeated Rep. Ben Chandler (D).
Senate — Angus King (I). Governor 1995-2002, term limited. Defeated Charlie Summers (R) and Cynthia Dill (D) for the seat of Olympia Snowe (R), who retired.
House — John Delaney (D-06). Defeated Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R).
Senate — Elizabeth Warren (D). Defeated Sen. Scott Brown (R).
House — Joe Kennedy III (D-04). Succeeds Barney Frank (D), who retired.
Dan Kildee (D-05). Succeeds his uncle, Dale Kildee (D), who retired.
Kerry Bentivolio (R-11). Succeeds Thad McCotter (R), who resigned.
House — Rick Nolan (D-08). In House 1975-80, retired. Defeated Rep. Chip Cravaack (R).
House — Ann Wagner (R-02). Succeeds Todd Akin (R), who lost a Senate bid.
House — Steve Daines (R-At Large). Succeeds Denny Rehberg (R), who lost a Senate bid.
Senate — Deb Fischer (R). Defeated former Sen./Gov. Bob Kerrey (D) for the seat of Ben Nelson (D), who retired.
Dina Titus (D-01). In House 2009-10, defeated after one term. Succeeds Shelley Berkley (D), who lost a Senate bid.
Steven Horsford (D-04). New district.
Carol Shea-Porter (D-01). In House 2007-10, lost in bid for third term. Defeated Rep. Frank Guinta (R).
Ann McLane Kuster (D-02). Defeated Rep. Charlie Bass (R).
House — Donald Payne Jr. (D-10). Succeeds his father, Donald Payne (D), who died in March.
Senate — Martin Heinrich (D). In House since 2009. Defeated Heather Wilson (R) for the seat of Jeff Bingaman (D), who retired.
House — Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-01). Succeeds Martin Heinrich (D), who was elected to the Senate.
Grace Meng (D-06). Succeeds Gary Ackerman (D), who retired.
Hakeem Jeffries (D-08). Succeeds Ed Towns (D), who retired.
Sean Patrick Maloney (D-18). Defeated Rep. Nan Hayworth (R).
Dan Maffei (D-24). In House 2009-10, lost in his bid for a second term. Defeated Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R).
Chris Collins (R-27). Defeated Rep. Kathy Hochul (D).
Richard Hudson (R-08). Defeated Rep. Larry Kissell (D).
Robert Pittenger (R-09). Succeeds Sue Myrick (R), who retired.
Mark Meadows (R-11). Succeeds Heath Shuler (D), who retired.
George Holding (R-13). Succeeds Brad Miller (D), who retired.
Senate — Heidi Heitkamp (D). Defeated Rep. Rick Berg (R) for the seat of Kent Conrad (D), who retired.
House — Kevin Cramer (R-At Large). Succeeds Rick Berg, who lost in a Senate bid.
Brad Wenstrup (R-02). Succeeds Rep. Jean Schmidt (R), whom he defeated in the GOP primary.
Joyce Beatty (D-03). New district.
David Joyce (R-14). Succeeds Steve LaTourette (R), who retired.
Jim Bridenstine (R-01). Succeeds Rep. John Sullivan (R), whom he defeated in the GOP primary.
Markwayne Mullin (R-02). Succeeds Dan Boren (D), who retired.
Scott Perry (R-04). Succeeds Todd Platts (R), who retired.
Keith Rothfus (R-12). Defeated Rep. Mark Critz (D).
Matt Cartwright (D-17). Succeeds Rep. Tim Holden (D), whom he defeated in the Democratic primary.
Senate — Tim Scott (R). Appointed to fill the seat of Jim DeMint (R), who resigned.
House — Tom Rice (R-07). New district.
Senate — Ted Cruz (R). Defeated Paul Sadler (D) for the seat of Kay Bailey Hutchison (R), who retired.
Randy Weber (R-14). Succeeds Ron Paul (R), who retired.
Beto O'Rourke (D-16). Succeeds Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D), whom he defeated in the Democratic primary.
Joaquin Castro (D-20). Succeeds Charlie Gonzales (D), who retired.
Pete Gallego (D-23). Defeated Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco (R).
Roger Williams (R-25). Newly drawn district. (Incumbent Dem Lloyd Doggett forced to move to another district.)
Marc Veasey (D-33). New district.
Filemon Vela (D-34). New district.
Steve Stockman (R-36). In House 1995-96, defeated in bid for a second term. New district.
House — Chris Stewart (R-02). Newly drawn district. (Incumbent Dem Jim Matheson forced to move to another district.)
Senate — Tim Kaine (D). Governor 2006-09, term limited. Defeated former Sen./Gov. George Allen (R) for seat of Jim Webb (D), who retired.
Suzan DelBene (D-01). Succeeds Jay Inslee (D), who resigned to run, successfully, for governor.
Derek Kilmer (D-06). Succeeds Norm Dicks (D), who retired.
Denny Heck (D-10). New district.
Senate — Tammy Baldwin (D). In House since 1999. Defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) for the seat of Herb Kohl (D), who retired.
House — Mark Pocan (D-02). Succeeds Tammy Baldwin (D), who was elected to the Senate.
Political Updates. I post periodic political updates during the week — some serious, some not — on Twitter. You can follow me at @kenrudin. Time to answer some reader e-mails:
Q: I always love your trivia question [on Wednesday's Political Junkie segment] on Talk of the Nation. My favorite part is when you explain why someone's called-in answer is wrong; I never know how you do that. I especially liked your [Dec. 26] question about the last former governor who ran for the House. You said it was Bill Janklow of South Dakota. Were there any others? — Linda Salomon, Springfield, Ill.
A: I can think of two more: John Carlin (D) of Kansas and Dave Treen (R) of Louisiana. Carlin, who served as governor from 1979-86, ran and lost for the House in 1994. Treen, who was a member of Congress before he was elected governor in 1979, tried again for the House in 1999.
Q: How many Democrats in Congress voted to allow the assault-weapons ban to expire in 2004? — Stephen Dennis, Minneapolis, Minn.
A: The ban, which President Clinton signed into law in 1994, expired 10 years later. The only time extending the ban (for another 10 years) made it to a vote came on an amendment attached to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act on March 2, 2004. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), passed by a vote of 52-47, but it died when the act itself failed on final passage. Six Democrats voted against the amendment: Baucus (Mont.), Feingold (Wis.), Landrieu (La.), Miller (Ga.), Nelson (Neb.) and Reid (Nev.).
(For the record, 10 Republicans voted for it: Chafee (R.I.), Collins (Maine), DeWine (Ohio), Fitzgerald (Ill.), Gregg (N.H.), Lugar (Ind.), Smith (Ore.), Snowe (Maine), Voinovich (Ohio) and Warner (Va.).)
All other efforts to extend the ban or make it permanent failed. Senate bills, often sponsored by Feinstein and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), all were sent to the Judiciary Committee, where they died. Similar measures in the House, usually pushed by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), were also referred to a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, where no votes were taken.
Q: Why didn't Gen. Schwarzkopf ever run for president? — Pat Singer, Washington, D.C.
A: Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who died Dec. 27 at the age of 78, commanded U.S. forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The result was a victory over Saddam Hussein's Iraqi military that took just 43 days — and only 100 hours after the ground phase of the war had been initiated — and it made Schwarzkopf a national hero, a celebrated military man with favorable comparisons to generals of the past, such as Eisenhower or MacArthur. True, Iraq's military might was never going to be a match for U.S. coalition forces. But still pained by how Vietnam turned out, Americans were looking for a military figure to celebrate, and they found one in Schwarzkopf.
Interviewed by Barbara Walters on ABC's 20/20 program, Schwarzkopf refused to rule out a future run for president, which led to widespread interest and a national draft movement. But he wasn't about to run as a Republican, especially since the GOP incumbent, George H.W. Bush, was also basking in high approval ratings in the wake of the war. And while pundits like Newsweek's Howard Fineman wrote that Schwarzkopf "could probably win the Democratic nomination if he wanted it," an overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress voted against the war and were not about to seek out "Stormin' Norman" as their candidate. And in the succeeding years, celebration about the quick ending to the war gave way to questions as to why Saddam was allowed to remain in power and his Republican Guard still formidable.
Corrections Department. Some alert readers caught a few errors in recent columns. I wrote about the House race in Louisiana between two GOP incumbents, Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry, saying that the state "lost a seat because of population losses." Sally Smith of Ashburn, Va., correctly points out, "No. It lost a seat because it grew slower than the national average. Michigan was the only state to actually lose population during the 2000s." And I made two mistakes in my obit column regarding Arlen Specter. Tom Harsanyi of Burlington, Mass., reminds me that when he was first elected to the Senate in 1980, Specter succeeded the retiring Dick Schweiker, not Hugh Scott. And Rick Wexler of Philadelphia points out that Specter was defeated for re-election as Philly district attorney in 1973 (by F. Emmett Fitzpatrick) and not in 1969, when he won a second term. Ugh, that was sloppy. In any event, those corrections have been added to the 2012 obit column. You can read that column here.
Political Junkie segment on Talk of the Nation. Each Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET, the Political Junkie segment appears on Talk of the Nation (NPR's call-in program), hosted by Neal Conan with me adding color commentary, where you can, sometimes, hear interesting conversation, useless trivia questions and sparkling jokes. Last week's show focused on the fiscal cliff deal and featured three new House members-elect: Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.).
And two weeks ago, with Neal out, the guest host was NPR's Ari Shapiro, where we said goodbye to 2012. You can listen to both segments here:
Come to the LIVE Junkie show! The Political Junkie Road Show is coming to Washington, D.C.! The Road Show, which drew huge crowds in Orlando, Columbus and many other cities — to over four or five positive reviews — is basically a reprise of the Wednesday Talk of the Nation Political Junkie segment, but before a live audience and with tons of extra features! There will be newsmaker interviews, political trivia, ScuttleButton puzzles and, for the first time, FUNNY JOKES. In addition to shenanigans from Neal and me, there will be guest appearances by Nina Totenberg, Ted Koppel, Clarence Page, Ari Shapiro and Don Gonyea! It's being held at Washington's historic 6th & I Synagogue (600 I St. N.W.). This pre-Inauguration special program starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16 (doors open at 6 p.m.). Tickets are $20. Click here for more details.
Podcast. There's also a new episode of our weekly podcast, "It's All Politics," up every Thursday. It's hosted by my partner in crime, Ron Elving, and me. The last two episodes can be heard here:
And Don't Forget ScuttleButton. ScuttleButton, America's favorite waste-of-time button puzzle, can usually be found in this spot every Monday or Tuesday. A randomly selected winner will be announced every Wednesday during the Political Junkie segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation. Sure, there's incredible joy in deciphering the answer, but the winner gets not only a Political Junkie T-shirt but also a 3-1/2-inch Official No-Prize Button! Is this a great country or what??
ON THE CALENDAR:
Jan. 16 — Political Junkie/TOTN Road Show in Washington, D.C. 7 p.m. at the historic 6th & I Synagogue (600 I St. N.W.).
Jan. 20/21 — Private/public inauguration of President Obama.
Feb. 26 — Special election in Illinois' 2nd CD to replace Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned.
March 19 — Special primary in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District to replace Tim Scott (R), who was appointed to the Senate. (Runoff, if needed, will be April 2; general election is May 7.)
Mailing list. To receive a weekly email alert about the new column and ScuttleButton puzzle, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
******* Don't Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please include your city and state. *********
This day in campaign history: Alfonse D'Amato, the presiding supervisor of the town of Hempstead, on Long Island, announces he will challenge Sen. Jacob Javits in New York's GOP primary in September. The 42-year-old D'Amato, considered strong in Nassau County but unknown statewide, says Javits, who is expected to seek a fifth term, is too liberal for the state's Republicans (Jan. 7, 1980). Javits never faced a primary opponent in his four previous elections. But his advancing age (76) and questions about his health (he has a progressive muscular disease), along with fierce opposition from conservatives, help D'Amato win the primary easily. And D'Amato will go on to take the seat in November as the liberal vote is split between Elizabeth Holtzman, the Democratic candidate, and Javits, who stays in the race as the candidate of the Liberal Party.
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