Boehner to Replace DeLay as Majority Leader
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Alex Chadwick.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand. A startling upset on Capitol Hill today. House Republicans chose Congressman John Boehner of Ohio to be their new majority leader, succeeding Tom DeLay. Boehner beat out the favorite, Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri. Blunt has served as acting leader since DeLay was forced to step down after he was indicted on corruption charges in Texas.
And joining us to talk about this is NPR's political editor Ken Rudin. And Ken, tell us how this upset happened.
KEN RUDIN reporting:
Madeleine, I think there were just two names and two reasons for this. One was Jack Abramoff. He's the indicted and convicted former Republican lobbyist whose connections on Capitol Hill worried a lot of Republicans fearing that this would be a major issue, corruption would be a major issue against the Republicans in November. And the other name is Tom DeLay. Roy Blunt was very close to Tom DeLay, DeLay chose him as his deputy when DeLay himself was Whip. He became very close to DeLay in the leadership, and I guess, given all the headlines and the worries about, of the Republicans about November, they felt like they would pick a new face in John Boehner.
BRAND: Well, tell us a little bit about this new face. Who is John Boehner?
RUDIN: Well, interesting, because we talk about a new face, and yet the fact that John Boehner's been elected to congress in 1990, longer than any of the other candidates in the race. He's a conservative Republican from Ohio, he's a chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee. He had been in the leadership, in the Republican leadership during the reign of Speaker Newt Gingrich, but he was forced out in 1998 when voters reacted against Republican efforts regarding the impeachment of Bill Clinton. They thought the Republicans over reached, and Boehner and Gingrich paid for it.
But ever since he was pushed out of the leadership in 1998, he's worked hard. He's come back very strong. He's been a good fund raiser, and again, unlike Roy Blunt, who has connections to lobbyists, whose wife is a lobbyist, whose son is a lobbyist, John Boehner's considered cleaner, if that's the right word. He has not pushed pork projects to his own district, and I think it's good news for the Republicans who were fearing the headlines, had Blunt won.
BRAND: And does he have the power to get legislation through the House?
RUDIN: Well, the Republicans still have the majority, no matter who won, whether it was Roy Blunt or John Boehner, or the third candidate in the race, John Shaddegg. Anybody would have been able to lead the Republicans, the point is, is that, again, to know, today's Groundhog Day. Republicans were afraid to look at their shadow and see the shadow of Tom DeLay staring in their face, and that's what would have happened had Roy Blunt been elected today.
BRAND: So, what does this mean for Roy Blunt?
RUDIN: Blunt is the Majority Whip. He said he would stay on as Whip had he lost the Majority Leader's race, although nobody expected him to lose that race. But it's very interesting, because, basically, in rejecting Roy Blunt, the House Republicans have certainly rejected Tom DeLay, and Tom DeLay's close friend in Roy Blunt, and I wonder if it's sending a singnal to Dennis Hastert, too, because Hastert, DeLay, and Blunt were all part of the old leadership. Boehner sounds like the new face, as part of a new leadership.
BRAND: Ken Rudin is NPR's political editor. He joined us from Washington. Thank you, Ken.
RUDIN: Thanks, Madeleine.
BRAND: And you can read Ken Rudin's Political Junkie column about the House leadership race. It's at our website, npr.org.