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Boehner and Blunt to Lead House Republicans


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.



And I'm Renee Montagne.

House Republicans have just finished their leadership elections on Capitol Hill. John Boehner of Ohio will be their leader, and Roy Blunt of Missouri has been elected the party's whip. He beat out John Shadegg of Arizona. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert had declined to run for his party's leadership in the minority.

NPR's Julie Rovner is on Capitol Hill this morning following all these developments, and she joins us now. Good morning.

JULIE ROVNER: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: John Boehner, he was the majority leader in the last Congress, wasn't he? I mean, I thought we were going to get some new faces here.


ROVNER: Well, he is a new face, sort of. He had not started out in a leadership in the last Congress. He was elected to the majority leader's job in February to replace Tom DeLay, who, as you'll recall, was forced to step down. He had been in the leadership when the Republicans first took over in 1994. He was forced out in 1998, after the Republicans had their last disappointing election.

MONTAGNE: But Boehner's challenger, Mike Pence, was seen as the champion of the most conservative Republicans, so is there an ideological choice being made here?

ROVNER: Well, not really. These are two very conservative Republicans. Sort of a traditional conservative in John Boehner versus kind of a movement conservative. Pence heads the Republican Study Committee, which has more than a hundred members who are both social and fiscal conservatives. But Pence really only got 27 votes for minority leader, so I think it was more a question of style than a question of actual substance.

MONTAGNE: So how will Boehner be different from Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay, who had been the top Republicans in the House for the past eight years?

ROVNER: Well, I think Hastert and DeLay really ran the House in a top-down manner. They made the decisions at the top and they kind of dictated how those decisions would be carried out. And I think John Boehner was elected and came in and has carried out his role in a much more consensus-building way, talking with and dealing with the committee chairmen, keeping them much more in the loop and included in the decision making. That seems to have been pretty popular, and I think that's what really kind of sealed his victory here.

MONTAGNE: And then this number two job, the minority whip, is that critical to the job that John Boehner's going to do if he's going to be successful as the leader?

ROVNER: Well, obviously not as critical as it is when you're in the majority. The whip is the top vote counter and the person who gathers up the votes. And obviously, when you're trying to pass something, that's a lot more important then when you're trying to block something. But obviously, it's also important when you're trying to block something, when you're trying to keep your forces together to defeat something. So it will be important. I think it was interesting: John Shadegg, who was defeated for the job, and we don't know the actual tally yet, was saying that you really need an ideas person rather than sort of a technical person that Roy Blunt is in that job. But obviously, that didn't prevail.

MONTAGNE: Julie, looking at these elections and the results, is this a team that's going to be making deals with Democrats, getting maybe a piece of the action for themselves, or a group that's going to go to the barricades?

ROVNER: Well, it's kind of hard to tell. On the one hand, John Boehner is more than capable of making deals with Democrats. He's been a committee chairman, he's passed a lot of legislation that's involved compromise. On the other hand, conservatives are pretty angry right now, and they think they lost because they weren't conservative enough, because they left some of their ideals behind. And a lot of the Republicans who lost in this election were moderates, the moderates are the ones who are gone. So the party as a whole has really moved a bit to the right, and that may affect things.

MONTAGNE: Julie, thank you.

ROVNER: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Julie Rovner. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.