Dick Armey, the former House majority leader and a key leader within the conservative Tea Party movement, tells Politics Daily that he has full confidence in House Minority Leader John Boehner to be the next speaker of the House if Republicans retake control of the chamber in November.
"I think he deserves his right to be tested on his own grounds and on his own terms and not be held accountable for the failings of the leadership team that went before him," Armey said. "He has proven himself to be a constitutional, small government conservative with reliable initiative in the past. I think he'll be that in the future if given a chance."
Conservative critics of Boehner have called him insufficiently conservative and worry that a man who has served in Congress since 1990 and in the Republican leadership for nine years cannot bring the change that's needed to Washington. Boehner led the Republican conference in the 104th and 105th congresses (from 1995 to 1998), but was tossed out of his leadership position in 1998 after the GOP lost several House seats. He did not serve in the GOP leadership again until 2006, when he was elected minority leader.
Armey said that painting Boehner as a consummate insider misreads history.
"Remember that John Boehner was in the Gang of Seven in 1992 that started the reform process and also was the guy, when the contract (with America) was starting, who wanted to put in a ban on earmarks."
The "Gang of Seven" was a group of seven Republican freshmen lawmakers who spoke out against ethical abuses among Democratic and Republican House members, including hundreds who had bounced checks at the House bank and many more who engaged in an illegal stamps-for-cash exchange with the House Post Office. Boehner is the only member of the Gang of Seven still in the House.
"If you look at John Boehner's history, John Boehner was active (in the House) entrepreneurially in 1994, and remained active," Armey said, comparing Boehner to a start-up business owner, and established Republican leaders to government paper-pushers. "But when the bureaucrats took over, they kicked John Boehner out. So John Boehner wasn't in our leadership when the Republican majority went bad. People miss that part of the history. The people who were in the leadership at that time are no longer in Congress."
With speculation occasionally swirling that Rep. Eric Cantor could challenge Boehner after the November elections, such a full-throated endorsement from Armey should go a long way for conservatives looking for their next leader in the House.
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