Speaker John Boehner’s fortunes are going south like Sherman as the top House Republican navigates the politically treacherous fiscal cliff negotiations, those in his orbit now fearing a possible conservative coup led by Georgia Rep. Tom Price.
Even as the odds of ousting Boehner remain fixed in the basement, grumblings of a challenge hit a feverpitch last week when a pair of conservatives were purged from key committee posts for bucking leadership.
Should Boehner come up short in tax and spending negotiations with the White House, senior leadership aides have expressed a sense of unease that a viable challenger might galvanize unrest.
“Price is the person we’re all watching,” a leadership-aligned aide told the National Review Monday. “We know he’s frustrated but we don’t know much else.”
Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Roswell, has played coy when pressed about his future — whether a bid for the House gavel or a primary challenge to Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
In an interview with National Review, Price expressed dissatisfaction with leadership and said conservative backbenchers maintain a majority in the caucus despite holding undersized influence at the negotiating table.
“My concern is that within our conference, conservatives, who are a majority, don’t have a proper platform,” he told the magazine. “That’s true at the leadership table and on the steering committee.”
But Price has already once pursued and lost a top leadership spot, number four in the GOP plank, this year to a Boehner-approved candidate. “It was a tough loss,” he said of the bid, “but my friends said, ‘Fight on.’”
He remains widely popular within right wing of the caucus despite his loss, but some aides to fellow conservatives say they doubt the Georgian has the juice to oust the speaker.
“Everyone loves the doc,” one House staffer who asked to remain anonymous told Tipsheet. “He’s an amiable yet forceful communicator for the conservative agenda. But the institutional challenges to ousting a speaker not universally reviled means this is simply a failing proposition.”
UPDATE: A Price aide says in no uncertain terms that the Peach Stater will not challenge Boehner.
- James Richardson