John Boehner is a bloodied House speaker after the startling setback that his own fractious Republican troops dealt him in their ‘‘fiscal cliff’’ struggle against President Obama.
There’s plenty of internal grumbling about the Ohio Republican, especially among conservatives, and lots of buzzing about whether his leadership post is in jeopardy.
But it is uncertain whether any other House Republican has the broad appeal to seize the job from Boehner or whether his embarrassing inability to pass his own bill preventing tax increases on everyone but millionaires is enough to topple him.
‘‘No one will be challenging John Boehner as speaker,’’ predicted John Feehery, a consultant and former House GOP aide. ‘‘No one else can right now do the job of bringing everyone together’’ and unifying House Republicans.
The morning after he yanked the tax-cutting bill from the House floor to prevent certain defeat, Boehner told reporters he was not worried about losing his job when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3.
‘‘They weren’t taking that out on me,’’ he said Friday of rank-and-file GOP lawmakers, who despite pleading from Boehner and his lieutenants were shy of providing the 217 votes needed for passage.
That ‘‘somebody’’ was a number of outside conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, which openly pressured lawmakers to reject Boehner’s bill. Such organizations often oppose GOP lawmakers they consider too moderate.
This time, his retreat on the tax measure was an unmistakable blow to the clout of the 22-year House veteran known for an amiable style, a willingness to make deals, and a perpetual tan.
Boehner, 63, faces unvarnished hostility from some conservatives.
‘‘We clearly can’t have a speaker operate well outside’’ what Republicans want to do, said Representative Tim Huelskamp, a freshman Republican from Kansas.
Huelskamp is one of four GOP lawmakers who lost prized committee assignments after previous clashes with party leaders. That punishment was an anomaly for Boehner, who is known more for friendly persuasion than arm-twisting.
He said Boehner’s job would depend on whether the speaker is ‘‘willing to sit and listen to Republicans first, or march off’’ and negotiate with Obama.
Defenders say Boehner has been dealt a difficult hand. They say that in nearly two years as speaker, he has been trying to organize an unruly GOP majority confronting a Democratic president and Senate.
‘‘He’s doing a good job in a tough situation,’’ said Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican and friend of Boehner. He said the speaker’s challenges include ‘‘independent individuals’’ among House Republicans and the increased willingness of outside conservatives to pressure GOP leaders, not defer to them.
Obama to spend Christmas in Hawaii with his family
President Obama and his family will spend Christmas in Hawaii, where the president was born and raised.
Air Force One arrived in Honolulu on Saturday. The president’s vacation itinerary does not include any scheduled public events.
No return date has been given by the White House. Obama himself said Friday that, since a deal has not been reached to avert going over the so-called fiscal cliff, he would be returning to Washington after Christmas.