Boehner retains speaker post, but dissidents nip at his heels
Published: January 3, 2013 10:15PM
Updated: January 3, 2013 10:15PM

Washington • Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio was narrowly re-elected speaker of the House on Thursday amid open dissent from conservatives on the House floor that signaled that the turmoil and division of the 112th Congress is likely to spill into the newly constituted 113th.

Boehner, in his opening address to the new House, indicated that the Republican majority would make the federal debt and deficit its singular focus. He also delivered a blunt message to those he sees as more interested in stirring dissension and scoring political points than in being constructive.

“If you have come here to see your name in lights or to pass off political victory as accomplishment, you have come to the wrong place,” an emotional Boehner said, calling for the House to focus on results. “The door is behind you.”

In the Senate as well, hard feelings from the old Congress were reverberating in the new.

The Democratic leadership said it would hold off on efforts to limit the filibuster while negotiations with Republicans about procedural changes continued. But more junior Democrats signaled they are not done pressing to diminish the power of the filibuster, even if that means taking the extraordinary step of changing the Senate rules with a simple majority vote — an approach dubbed “the nuclear option.”

“The Senate is broken,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

The tension around Boehner, who was elected unanimously by House Republicans two years ago, showed in the long, pomp-filled roll call vote where each member was called on to publicly announce a choice. A dozen Republicans either voted for someone other than Boehner, voted present or remained silent even though they were in the chamber. It was not until the very last votes that Boehner cleared the majority he needed. President Barack Obama called Boehner to offer congratulations.

A few who opposed Boehner were newcomers, signaling a new generation of dissent. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma voted for Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, and Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who prevailed in the Republican primary last year with the help of young Ron Paul acolytes, voted for Justin Amash of Michigan; Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., started his career in the House by voting for Cantor, to “send a statement,” he said.

But the agenda laid out by Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, jibed well with the demands of small-government conservatives who have complained that neither leader has been sufficiently confrontational with Obama.