Published Online: October 18, 2005
Published in Print: October 19, 2005, as Boehner and the Hammer

Federal File

Boehner and the Hammer

With DeLay under a legal cloud, education panel chairman is one to watch.

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He’s already leading the House education committee, but Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, may have his eyes on something bigger.

Rep. Boehner, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, is seen as a top contender for the position of House majority leader, if that spot becomes permanently vacant.

After being indicted on Sept. 28 on charges related to his political action committee, including money laundering, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas was temporarily forced to step down from his leadership post and won’t regain it unless he is cleared of the allegations. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is filling in as the top Republican floor leader for Mr. DeLay, whose forceful political tactics have earned him a nickname, “The Hammer.”

Rep. Boehner “already has widespread support” to replace DeLay, said political scientist Larry J. Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “He’s widely admired for his intelligence and knowledge about the legislative process.”

Rep. Blunt is likely to seek the post, too.

Rep. Boehner’s staff is mum on their boss’s future, saying he’s focused on his role as education committee chairman. If he were elected majority leader, he would have to give up the chairmanship.

Alexa Marrero, a spokesman for Republicans on the education panel, did say, however, that Mr. Boehner believes House Republicans must unite.

“He believes it would be a mistake for members to assume abrupt changes in leadership can necessarily be a silver bullet for any troubles the conference may be experiencing,” she said in an e-mail.

Rep. Boehner once held the No. 4 leadership post, the chairmanship of of the House Republican Conference, which is made up of the GOP members. He was ousted in 1998 for his role in the 1997 attempted overthrow of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. In 2000, Mr. Boehner started his climb back to prominence by gaining the chairmanship of the education committee.

Though there would likely be a pitched battle over the majority leader’s position if Mr. DeLay were forced out permanently, Rep. Boehner is definitely a candidate to watch, Mr. Sabato said.

“He’s lived to fight another day,” Mr. Sabato said, “and he’s ready for a good fight.”

Vol. 25, Issue 08, Page 22

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