Boehner boots Southern Baptist Daniel Webster from crucial committee after House speaker vote

by Will Hall, |
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (R) kisses House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as he holds the gavel after being re-elected speaker on the House floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 6, 2015. | REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – After handily defeating multiple challenges to his leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Beohner has removed top Republican congressmen from key leadership assignments, including Southern Baptist Daniel Webster, an influential representative of the 10th Congressional District in Florida.

Webster, a member of First Baptist Church of Central Florida in Orlando, has represented voters in this area since 2011. Before that he served for 28 years in the state legislature in Tallahassee to become the longest serving legislator in Florida history. During his tenure in the statehouse, he was House speaker and later, Senate majority leader.

He was the second leading Republican in the ballot for U.S. House speaker yesterday, but received only 12 votes to Boehner's 216 -- and Democrat Nancy Pelosi's 164. Another dozen Republicans chose alternative candidates, and one voted "present." Four Democrats did not support Pelosi or Boehner.

The "no" vote for the majority candidate was the largest party defection in deciding the House speaker in recent history.

Congressman Daniel Webster is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and until recently served on the House Committee on Rules. For more than three decades, he served in the Florida Legislature (1980-2008). He and his wife, Sandy Webster are the parents of six children, and grandparents to many. They are active members of First Baptist Church of Central Florida in Orlando where he grew up and has taught Sunday School for nearly 40 years. | Official File Photo

Despite Boehner's sizable advantage over Pelosi, his margin of victory was really only 11, because 205 votes were needed (a simple majority of the 409 votes that were cast).

The lower threshhold resulted in part from the absence of 13 Democrats who were attending the funeral of Mario Cuomo in New York City. Another 12 members were missing as well (5 Republicans 7 democrats), and also contributed to Boehner's success in staving off the mini-rebellion in his own party.

Republican Michael Grimm was gone, having stepped down due to a tax evasion scandal.

Boehner also benefited from some changed minds.

Several incoming Republican congressman had told insiders they intended to join the effort as a statement against Boehner's past compromises that undermined conservative voters' wishes, but they apparently reconsidered.

Boehner has since removed Webster from the critical Committee on Rules, one of the most powerful bodies in the House because it determines the process for handling each bill, which can largely determine whether proposed legislation passes or fails, or even if it will be considered.

Webster for his part was conciliatory but principled in his remarks following the vote. He said he was humbled by the confidence shown by those who voted for him and insisted the concerted effort was not against Boehner but for something bigger.

"It was a vote for initiating a process that I know can produce sound public policy for the people who sent us to Washington on their behalf," he said in a statement released on his website.

Polls have shown that Republican voters are not happy with political compromises with liberals by Boehner and his counterpart in the Senate, the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, over issues like Obamacare and immigration reform.

Webster said he already had pushed for Boehner and his leadership team to hold fast to the policies voters want to see produced and he announced he will "continue to advocate for a more open, member-driven and productive process, one that places principle above power."

A leadership insider, Webster insisted he was motivated because of a legislative process that has become flawed, and that "a flawed process will always produce a flawed product" that is detrimental to the wishes of those who sent them to Congress.

Despite Pelosi's run against him for House speaker, Boehner was gracious to her during the proceedings, allowing her to share House Democrats' intentions to push for infrastructure investment and restrictions on CEO pay, without challenging her remarks in his own comments.

Pelosi was gracious, even buoyant, in referencing Boehner in her closing remarks.

"This House will continue to be led by a proud son of Ohio, and a happy fan of the Ohio State football team," she said.

Pelosi called Boehner, "A man of abiding faith, great heart and deep dedication."

"John Boehner truly is a gentleman from Ohio," she ended.

Pelosi and Boehner are reported to be Roman Catholics, but Boehner is criticized by the liberals in his denomination and Pelosi is chastised by right-to-life and traditional marriage groups in her faith tradition.

So far, there is no indication whether Boehner intends to take action against Louie Gohmert, another Southern Baptist and a member of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, who was also part of the determined conservative Republican uprising and received three votes for House speaker.