Capitol & State

Simpson rejects Labrador prediction of Speaker Boehner's retirement

Lost in the shock of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary defeat Tuesday night was the prediction of Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador that change is coming for the House's No. 1 — Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

"I don't think he runs again," Labrador said of Boehner during his monthly Conversations with Conservatives meeting with reporters Tuesday morning. Labrador's prediction was echoed by Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who said, “I don’t think he’s going to come back as speaker either."

But the two-term Idaho congressman's assessment was rebuffed by his eight-term Idaho colleague, 1st District Rep. Mike Simpson.

Simpson is a close friend of Boehner, who campaigned for Simpson in Boise in August.

"I don't think Raul knows Boehner as well as I do," Simpson said Thursday in an interview about how Cantor's defeat affects the Idaho delegation. "John's running again."

In a closed-door meeting of the GOP Conference Wednesday, Simpson said Boehner sent a clear signal he'll seek a third two-year term as speaker — assuming the GOP holds the House in November, as expected.

"It was as close as I've heard him say, 'I'm running again,' without saying, 'I'm running again,'" Simpson told the Statesman. "A lot of people looked around and said, 'OK, John's running again.'"

Boehner's status means a good deal to Idaho, where Simpson's relationship has boosted his power and allowed him to do things like get wolves removed from the Endangered Species List.

Labrador, however, has reason to hope Boehner calls it quits and reshuffles House leadership beyond the No. 2 post being vacated by Cantor, of Virginia, in July. Labrador is being urged to run for majority leader as a conservative alternative to Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California.

National Journal reports that Labrador is "quietly considering" running against McCarthy as "one of the most popular tea-party-allied members of the GOP's right flank."

Labrador was part of a failed coup against Boehner in January 2013 and refused to answer the roll call during the vote to re-elect Boehner. Labrador himself received a vote for speaker, cast by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.

Simpson, who spoke genially about Labrador Thursday, said speculation about the reasons for Cantor's loss haven't adequately accounted for the burden of life at the top.

"In leadership, you have to govern," Simpson said. "You can't be a member of the Vote-No-and-Hope Caucus. When the government got shut down, he had to open it back up. And Cantor was one of the guys that put that together. There are conservatives that don't like that and thought that made him less conservative than he really was."

The demands on Cantor's time also played a role, distancing him from his suburban Richmond district.

"It demonstrates the difficulty of being in leadership," Simpson said. "Somebody expects him to be in their district somewhere around this country every weekend. He's on the road all the time, he's raising money for the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee), he's doing events for members."

One of those members is Raul Labrador, who benefited from a Cantor fundraising visit in 2012.