By Mike Lillis – 09/23/15 03:28 PM EDT
House Democratic leaders are warning Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and his Republicans that they’re on their own to iron out internal strife.
“It’s not our responsibility to try to solve their divisions,” Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday.
Hoyer, the minority whip, said Democratic leaders have had no formal discussions on how they’d approach a potential coup to topple Boehner, as some conservatives are threatening. He suggested the Democrats would steer clear of the issue until forced to do otherwise.
“We’ll have to respond to them when they manifest themselves in a way that it makes it necessary for us to respond,” he said. “And we’ll do that.”
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, echoed that message Wednesday, saying it’s “their war” and the Democrats aren’t ready to engage. He further suggested that it remains unclear if the Democrats stand to benefit by picking one GOP division over another.
“Like the Syrian Civil War, I’m not sure it’s easy to discern which side anyone is on,” Becerra said by phone.
Amid the current budget debate — under threat of a government shutdown — Boehner is facing a possible conservative revolt if he joins Democrats in a compromise that fails to defund Planned Parenthood.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who floated a resolution in July to force a vote on vacating the Speakership, has threatened to try again this fall — depending on how Boehner manages a contentious autumn agenda that includes the current spending fight. Other members of the conservative Freedom Caucus are also watching closely.
Boehner and his allies have dismissed the coup talk as an exaggerated threat from a small group of conservative malcontents. But the ultimate outcome of such a vote could hinge on the Democrats’ strategy. That’s because the 188 House Democrats, combined with the 30 members of the Freedom Caucus, could reach the 218 threshold needed to oust Boehner — at least, mathematically.
Politically, the Democrats might not want to oust a Speaker who’s shown a willingness to compromise on must-pass bills like those funding the government, especially if the alternative is either a more conservative figure holding the gavel or the chaos surrounding the long hunt for a replacement.
Hoyer, for his part, characterized the coup threat as more evidence of a Republican Party in upheaval. He said Democrats are as uncertain as everyone else about what happens next.
“We don’t know what the Republicans are going to do, and our experience has been that the Republicans are somewhat unpredictable,” he said.
“The thing you can usually predict is that they’ll create chaos in some fashion or another.”