The Challenges of House Leadership

This is one of a series of posts from the Congressional Update

The biggest challenge in the House belongs to John Boehner. The speaker and his leadership team have been dealt a divided caucus, consisting of many members who are conservatives first, and Republicans second. In 2010, many of the most conservative members who rode the Tea Party wave to Washington went to the Republican Study Committee instead of going to Boehner for their leadership direction. Since that time, Boehner has been walking a fine line of leadership.


The 113th Congress began with an attempt by conservative members to oust Speaker Boehner from his leadership position. The ouster came up a few votes short, but the Speaker had to adjust some of his strategy in order to maintain his position.

Regarding the budget, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan has released controversial budgets over the past few years. His 2011 proposal sought to balance the budget in 27 years. In 2013, his proposal would balance the budget in 10 years. This change in timeline was something that the Republican Study Committee had been advocating for. It is representative of how pressure can influence policy.

Another idea that has been popular among the conservative wing of the Speaker’s party was defunding Obamacare. This conservative group rallied around Boehner during government shutdown, even as public approval ratings of the Republican party dropped.

Despite Boehner’s struggles over the past years, Tim Alberta makes the case that the speaker came out on top in 2013.

A version of this talk is also given in the Congressional Operations Seminar.
Next up at the Congressional Update: Alexis Simendinger, “Obama Administration’s 2014 Agenda

Sam Lovett is Communications Manager at the Government Affairs Institute