by Quin Hillyer
As John Boehner this week steps down as Speaker of the House, it’s worth telling the never-reported tale of how Boehner first got on the House Republican leadership track in the first place. The story shows, in microcosm, both Boehner’s remarkable skill-set and his oft-infuriating wheeler-dealer nature.
Let’s start the story sort of in the middle. It was in November of 1994, the second day after the then-remarkable takeover of the House by Republicans for the first time in 40 years. U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana, for whom I worked as press secretary (plus certain special projects), was walking up Independence Avenue with me, alongside the Longworth Building…..
[picking up the story later]…
But it was only one or two days after that when Livingston told me not to get my hopes up too high, not just yet. John Boehner had just spoken to him.
At the time, John Boehner was just finishing his second term in Congress — by traditional standards, still a raw neophyte.
But Boehner already had achieved significant prominence. He and fellow 1990-freshman Rick Santorum had become ringleaders of a group of young, energetic, conservative rebels known as the Gang of Seven….
[and still later}….
So Boehner had gone to Livingston and said that even as a very junior member of the House, he wanted to become Conference Chair. Livingston liked Boehner, but he had scoffed. Livingston had commitments from 75 percent of the caucus — a fact Boehner darn well knew — and he wasn’t about to budge….