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Wednesday, January 9, 2013
NewsBusters Nitpicks Reporting on Boehner's Speaker Election
Topic: NewsBusters

Ken Shepherd devotes a Jan. 4 NewsBusters post to complaining that a Washington Post article on the re-election of John Boehner as House speaker stated that Boehner "narrowly" won the seat. But Shepherd fails to explain exactly why that win really was narrow.

Shepherd declared that Boehner "handily beat his closest opponent, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the office, 220-192. Boehner did see a smattering of dissenting votes in his conference, but no serious challenger within his conference came close to depriving the Speaker of a majority on the first ballot." He added that Post reporter Paul Kane "sought, like others in the media, to portray the vote as a razor-thin close call -- 'Boehner watched the white-knuckle proceedings from off the floor' -- that underlines how "difficult for him" it's been for Boehner to lead the House Republican conference over the past two years." Shepherd went on to huff, "It might have helped Kane's "close vote" storyline if there was one Republican to whom most dissenters rallied around, but the anti-Boehner vote was fractured."

But the issue was never a specific opponent -- it was whether dissenting Republicans would embarrass Boehner by denying him a majority on the first ballot. Shepherd seems to have overlooked a claim on NewsBusters' sister website CNSNews.com that Boehner would not be re-elected speaker and would "either resign or be forced out," citing "a group of Congressmen" who planned to deny Boehner a majority. Ultimately, Boehner got just six votes above the needed majority of 214, even though there are 233 Republicans in the House.

Shepherd also wrote, "When all was said and done, a full 95 percent of the House GOP voted for Boehner, meaning just 5 percent defected. By contrast, a full 4 percent of Democrats refused to cast a vote for Nancy Pelosi, a fact which Kane left unmentioned." But Pelosi's dissenters are irrelevant because, since the vote for speaker typically breaks along party lines and Democrats are the minority in the House, Pelosi had no realistic chance of being elected speaker. 

By contrast, if enough Republicans refused to vote for Boehner, he would not have won the necessary majority. That was an actual possibility, a fact Shepherd glosses over.


Posted by Terry K. at 12:06 PM EST

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