What do Republican primary voters think of House Speaker John Boehner and why might it matter in next year’s CD1 Primary here in Arizona? Let’s call it “a Speaker thing”.
Activists in the GOP are largely disappointed with Speaker Boehner and his leadership and they are critical of what they see as his lack of conservative resolve. They don’t trust him to lead his caucus in a conservative direction if that means taking on established interests. They expect him to be weak and to cave at the end of each legislative battle.
Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin is running for Congress and his record is a mixed bag. He has conservative accomplishments but more than a few negatives as well. In what iscertainly a bad break for Tobin, he was on the conservative losing side of a high-profile defeat earlier this year during the fight over Medicaid Expansion. Some argue that he could have done a lot more to stop the expansion, but at the end of the day he and his team got run over by a small number of Republicans backed by the entire Democrat caucus. With a year to go until Election Day, and a year to go in his Speakership, what he does about that situation will likely determine his success both legislatively and electorally.
It isn’t unusual for a Republican member to cross his Speaker on an issue. Even on a huge issue like expansion. But it is a very big deal if a member of the leadership team does it and an even bigger deal if the Speaker’s Rules Chairman does it. Leadership is elected by the caucus and the Speaker can’t control who they are. But his most trusted lieutenant gets the gavel at Rules, and Tobin’s Rules Chairman was Bob Robson, who didn’t just roll the Speaker on the expansion, he was the brains of the operation. Nor did Robson and his cronies merely roll the Speaker, they threatened him with a coup if he didn’t get out of the way.
That was months ago, and Tobin still has not taken any steps to punish any of the Republicans who threatened him, including the ringleader who sits as Chairman of the most powerful committee in the House of Representatives. The committee through which every bill must flow. Robson betrayed his friend and his caucus, and he still enjoys the power of life and death over every bill in the Arizona Legislature. The Republicans in the Legislature have been imploring Tobin to replace Robson as Rules Chairman while Robson implicitly threatens the Speaker with a coup if he makes such a move.
It is worth repeating. Bob Robson worked with the Democrats to threaten our Republican Speaker with a coup unless he allowed ObamaCare to expand into Arizona’s Medicaid system. Today, Bob Robson is still Andy Tobin’s Rules Chairman. That cannot stand.
Andy Tobin has a chance, one single chance, to prove that he is everything that is right about Speaker Tobin to his primary voters, not everything that is wrong about Speaker Boehner. His clock is ticking.