He can stay if he wants to. Photographer: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
He can stay if he wants to. Photographer: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Is House Speaker John Boehner finished?

That’s according to a story by Tim Alberta in National Journal that is kicking up a lot of dust today. He says “several dozen” Boehner opponents claim that “between 40 and 50 members have already committed verbally to electing a new speaker.” That would be enough to deny Boehner a floor majority in January 2015. I’m not convinced.

I don’t doubt that the radicals -- the dozen or so members who refused to vote for the speaker in January 2013 – still want to try to oust him. And I’m willing to believe that a large number of House Republicans would prefer a different speaker.

The hurdle is the same as it’s been since January 2009. As long as Republicans have a House majority and Barack Obama is in the White House, the only way to get any measure enacted is for the House Republican leadership to vote for something that will be signed by the president conservative talk-show hosts describe as a Kenyan socialist. And as long as there are must-pass bills, the speaker is going to be perceived as a RINO. Yet even for the most conservative Republicans -- though not the irresponsible radicals -- things such as keeping the government open, avoiding a default, and second-tier issues such as the so-called Medicare doc fix, are must-pass.

Anyone who replaces Boehner, no matter how much of a True Conservative he or she might be before taking over, will end up in exactly the same position, and anyone in a position to be the next speaker knows it. Which is why they’ll want Boehner to stay at least two more years, when there is a possibility of a Republican president. It would be different if the main complaint against Boehner was that he is too willing to accommodate Obama.

It’s possible Boehner intends to retire anyway. It’s even possible that the noise might induce him to leave, either because he believes the bluff, or because he just doesn’t want to deal with it any more.

But if he wants to be speaker of the 114th House when it convenes in 2015, the odds are good that he will be. And most House Republicans will be happy to have him there.

To contact the writer of this article: Jonathan Bernstein at Jbernstein62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net