POLL: 53 percent of Republican voters wanted new House & Senate leaders

by Will Hall |

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – A poll of ordinary Republican voters helps explain why some congressmen abandoned John Boehner (R-Ohio) in the vote for House speaker. More than half the survey takers basically preferred "someone new."

Boehner received 216 votes to Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) 164 in the race for the post, but his real margin of winning was only 11 because 205 (a simple majority) were needed out of the 409 total that were cast.

Twenty-four Republicans chose alternative candidates, and one voted "present." Four Democrats voted for neither Boehner nor Pelosi, and another 13 were absent to attend the funeral of the venerable Democrat Mario Cuomo in New York City. Twelve other House members (5 Republicans and 7 Democrats) were missing, as well as Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) who stepped down due to a tax evasion scandal.

If all 435 representatives had participated, Boehner's 216 votes would not have been enough to get him the post.

And if it was left to Republican voters across the country, Boehner would not be the House leader.

The findings released by EMC Research showed Republican voters are highly dissatisfied with President Obama, the direction of the country and the state of the economy. Moreover, respondents said the leaders of both parties "are working for special interests and that ordinary people have no voice."

With that backdrop, EMC Research found that more than half of those surveyed, "basically 53 percent," said neither Boehner nor Mitch McConnell—his counterpart in the Senate—should be in a top leadership role and that they "preferred someone new." Senate Republicans unanimously reelected McConnell as majority leader in November.

Only 1 in 4 Republican voters felt that either Boehner or McConnell should lead the party in Congress, and "only 16 percent" wanted both.

The focus of the Republican voters' anger is the deal making Boehner and McConnell have done that has undermined the conservative agenda.

Specifically, survey takers said they were "unhappy with the decision by leadership to compromise with Obama on funding the government during the lame duck session—most feel the GOP should have used its leverage to stand up to Obama," according to the report.

But it seems the only fallout from voter dissatisfaction has been punishment for Republican lawmakers who listened to these concerns.

Boehner moved quickly to penalize at least two Republicans who were part of the opposition, including Daniel Webster, former long-time state legislator in Florida who now represents the 10th Congressional District which includes Orlando, and Richard Nugent, a former Florida sheriff elected from the 5th Congressional District which encompasses Hernando County, situated between Gainesville and Tampa.

Webster ran against Boehner in the leadership race, but received only 12 votes. Nugent supported Webster and is said to be an organizer of the revolt.

Both were removed from the powerful House Committee on Rules that determines the process for handling each bill, which can largely determine whether proposed legislation passes or fails, or even if it will be considered.

Boehner has faced opposition for the position from within the party before, as have other sitting Republican House speakers. But the level of protest has not been this strong.

According to the New York Times, Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) had nine party members vote against him in 1997 and Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) had five choose an alternative candidate in 2005. Boehner saw 12 Republicans withhold their support the last time he ran for re-election to the post in 2013.

However, Boehner's remarks upon being elected might offer hope to both men, as well as the remaining 23 in the rebel group who face possible retribution.

While addressing the lawmakers, Boehner said it was "our duty and our privilege to lend a willing ear to the people, to make laws in tune with their priorities," stressing that he would seek "common ground, both in letter and in spirit."

"As speaker," he added later, "I'll ask and frankly expect that we disagree without being disagreeable."

Both Webster and Nugent are active in Florida congregations with Webster serving at First Baptist Church of Central Florida in Orlando, and Nugent at First United Methodist Church in Spring Hill. Boehner is a Roman Catholic, but his home congregation is not noted in his official bio.

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