The tiny rebellion started early in the roll call, when the chair presiding over the House called on Rep. Justin Amash. Every Republican was supposed to vote John Boehner for speaker. But the Michigan sophomore cast a vote for Rep. Raul Labrador, an Idaho sophomore who happened to be sitting stony-faced next to him. The House floor filled with awkward “Oooohs” and the occasional “Who?”
The early part of the alphabet turned out to be trouble. Rep. Paul Broun voted for Allen West—who lost his seat last year—to become speaker. John Bridenstine, a new member from Oklahoma who upset an incumbent in a 2012 primary, voted for Eric Cantor. When Cantor’s turn came, he said “John. Boehner.” with the tone of voice you’d use on a telemarketer who put you on hold for three hours.
But that didn’t stop the dissents. Rep. Louie Gohmert voted for West; Rep. Steve Pearce and Rep. Ted Yoho voted for Cantor; Rep. Tom Massie, elected with help from Ron Paul’s PAC, voted for Amash. Rep. Tim Huelskamp voted for former Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, and anti-war Rep. Walter Jones voted for former Comptroller General David Walker, though the name was so unfamiliar that the chair made him repeat it. Reps. Mick Mulvaney and Raul Labrador didn’t bother voting. For a few frantic moments it looked like defections would force a second ballot—something that has not happened for 90 years—but a few stragglers (Michele Bachmann included) showed up late to end the damn thing.
Nancy Pelosi lost votes, too, as two Blue Dog Democrats went for their colleague Jim Cooper; Cooper himself went for “retired Gen. Colin Powell”; and Rep. John Barrow of Georgia went for his iconic colleague John Lewis. But the defections held Boehner’s vote to 220 in a conference of 233 Republicans. The defectors, in exchange for two years of ire from leadership, just wanted to bloody the guy’s nose.
UPDATE: David Walker was nice enough to give me a reaction to his unexpected vote: “I was surprised and appreciate Congressman Jones’ vote. We did not speak about it in advance. Congrats to Speaker Boehner.”