GOP Moderates May Attempt Coup Against Right-Wingers

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is leading the good fight against his party’s more extreme members.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Peter King, a New Yorker from a moderate-voting district, has become the nearly official vote of Republican CR compromise. He’ll bash Ted Cruz on the record—and he’ll do it for free! The bashing has helped write a Republicans-in-disarray storyline (like reporters needed any help), but it didn’t mean much. Until now. After today’s House Republican meeting, King claimed that there might be enough moderates—maybe 20–125—ready to vote down the CR that the whole pingpong game gets canceled, and the party has to compromise. This would happen after 6 p.m. today.


King said he raised his objections to the new plan during a closed-door meeting with his GOP colleagues Monday afternoon. King said he and other colleagues lamented that “we’re throwing red meat to the public and using our staff to get us out of the trouble we got ourselves into.”


I was there when King explained this, and he went on to tell reporters that he vented his spleen inside the lengthy meeting. “I said I don’t want to continue to be a facilitator for a disastrous process and plan,” he said. “I got overwhelming silence.”

A revolt like this would geld the conservatives and, theoretically, clear a path for John Boehner to admit that the House just needed to pass a “clean” CR (i.e., one that includes sequestration spending levels, and would be viewed as a Republican victory under other circumstances) with the votes of most Democrats and some Republicans. Rick Klein argues that “such a move, taken right now, could easily turn out to be the last substantial thing Boehner did as House speaker.” Certainly, that’s the CW. But here’s the follow-up: Which conservative would be elected speaker if the House held an open vote? Maybe conservatives could oust Boehner in conference, but imagine a floor vote between, say, Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling (a conservative favorite) as the GOP choice, and Boehner, as the choice of Democrats and Republicans. In the states, it’s not unheard of for a minority party to help defeat the majority party’s choice by elevating a more moderate candidate to the job—it happened in Texas a few years ago, and it happened in the Washington state Senate this year.

So it could happen, if moderates rebelled to pass a CR and desparate conservatives ousted Boehner. The first step would be King proving that he’s got the goods.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the government shutdown.