On his way out the Senate door Thursday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) took a shot — just a little one — at House Speaker John Boehner.
The tiny jibe was music to the ears of the #FireBoehner crowd, who are trying to build a coalition of conservatives to oust Boehner from the top spot in the House in retribution for his fiscal cliff counteroffer and a perceived war on the Tea Party.
“I have to say, Boehner isn’t forcing either of you out, right?” Rush Limbaugh asked DeMint and the man he’s set to replace as head of the Heritage Foundation, Ed Feulner, during a joint interview on his show.
“It might work a little bit the other way, Rush,” DeMint replied to laughter from all.
DeMint is, of course, best known for taking on the establishment GOP in Washington and across the country. The joke to Limbaugh made it clear he’s not hanging up that hat now that he’s soon to no longer be a senator. What Limbaugh and DeMint were joking about was the so-called conservative purge, a move by Boehner to strip committee assignments from four members in the 113th Congress after they bucked Republican leadership in the 112th.
Boehner’s defended the demotions as having “nothing to do with ideology,” claiming he made the changes to punish disloyalty. But that hasn’t stopped some tea party conservatives from spooling up the full grassroots right wing machinery against him, including claims of conspiracy and attempts to depose him.
Over at Breitbart, there are reports of a “a secret criteria list” used by Boehner and the House leadership to run the purge. Conservative groups are livid, and they’re trying to use the tea party playbook to punish Boehner.
American Majority Action, a conservative group that boasts around 30,000 members on its email list, is calling on 16 House Republicans to either vote against or abstain from the vote making Boehner speaker in the next Congress.
“The House rules demand that a Speaker receive a majority — 218 votes — to be elected speaker. If no nominee for speaker receives 218, the House remains speakerless — as it did during parts of the Civil War,” Ned Ryun, American Majority Action president and son of former Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS), wrote on the group’s website. “If 16 House Republicans were to abstain from voting for Speaker, Boehner would only receive 217 votes.”
This is a longshot proposition, to say the least. But the purge story has been enough to kick up some traffic on a #FireBoehner hashtag. American Majority Action says it plans to leverage its members to pressure more than 100 conservative House members to join the effort.
The purge is the latest indignity of Boehner’s leadership, which American Majority Action spokesperson Ron Meyer told TPM has been full of disdain for the tea party that fueled his ascension to the speaker’s office in the first place.
“Boehner’s been abysmal,” Meyer said. He acknowledged getting 16 House Republicans to oust their speaker is a high bar to cross, but said DeMint’s joke to Limbaugh shows the movement could be expanding.
“DeMint’s comment only helps,” he said. “It displays that mainstream conservatives want fresh leadership and are fed up with Boehner’s antics.”