House Speaker Tom Price, R-Ga.?
Heaven help us, and the Republican Party, should that come to pass. Such a development would produce a mess that would make Congress of the last two years seem like a smoothly functioning machine by comparison.
“Should a debt deal go sour, the buzz is that Tom Price, a 58-year-old physician from Georgia, may challenge John Boehner for the speaker’s gavel.
“Price is the person we’re all watching,” says an aide close to House leadership. “We know he’s frustrated, but we don’t know much else.”
Would Price really make a bid to unseat Boehner? And if so, could he win? (In response to the Costa piece, Price’s spokesperson now says the congressman “is not running for speaker,” which is interesting for a couple of reasons. One is its use of present tense rather than future tense; i.e. “is not running” vs. “will not run.” Nobody suggested that he “is” running. And in an interview with Costa earlier, Price himself had apparently refused to confirm or deny a possible challenge. That would have been the time to stop the rumor dead, had he wanted to do so.)
As I noted in my previous post, former Speaker Newt Gingrich estimates that a budget deal will require 120-140 Democratic votes to pass the House. In other words, Gingrich believes that more than half the Republicans will buck their leadership and refuse to vote for a final deal, which strikes me as a pretty accurate assessment.
The question is, will that be enough? Will conservative congressional Republicans be satisfied by casting personal votes of “no” against tax hikes, even as the hikes themselves go on to become law with the help of GOP leadership? Or, driven by an apoplectic right-wing blogosphere and a media-entertainment industry that thrives on conflict, will they whip themselves into such a frenzy that they demand the head of the man who cut the deal? In this kind of environment, talk of a challenge to Boehner was inevitable, if for no other reason than to keep the speaker on a short leash.
It also makes sense that the talk would center around Price, a conservative who represents the same congressional district once represented by Gingrich. Last month, Price was defeated in his bid for a House leadership post, losing narrowly to a more moderate candidate tacitly backed by Boehner. But he remains ambitious, and is also eying a potential primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in 2014.
Even if Price lost a challenge to Boehner, the effort itself would establish his conservative credentials to a larger audience and increase his stature for a run against Chambliss. In fact, with the impending departure of Jim DeMint from the Senate, challenging and losing to Boehner over an issue of principle might make Price the leading congressional champion of the Tea Party wing of the GOP. If conservative anger at Boehner gets strong enough, it’s hard to see a downside for Price trying to unseat him.
And if Price won? It would be almost suicidal for the Republicans. Throwing Boehner overboard would cement the party’s reputation as radical and uncompromising. The base might like that fine; the mainstream voter would not. In addition, Price is a pretty grim and confrontational personality, the sort that would not wear well in the public spotlight. If Boehner’s grip on power were seriously endangered, you would probably see Price nudged aside in favor of someone like Paul Ryan.
So yes, a challenge to Boehner by Price is feasible, depending on circumstances. A successful challenge by Price is much less feasible. And a challenge to Chambliss is the most feasible of all. Because clearly, this is a congressman who sees himself going places.
– Jay Bookman