Boehner re-elected speaker despite Amash opposition

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — House Speaker John Boehner was re-elected Tuesday as Michigan’s Rep. Justin Amash was one of 25 Republicans to either vote against him or vote present as the 114th Congress opened.

Amash, the west Michigan Republican, had said he would oppose Boehner as he did in 2013 when he joined 11 other Republicans in opposition.

But House Republicans expanded their majority in the November election to a 246-188 advantage — the biggest majority since the 1920s for the GOP. It provided more of a margin for Boehner but allowed more Republicans to voice their opposition without mustering the more than 30 votes they needed to force the Ohio Republican leader to a second ballot.

Amash said he voted for Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who was not among the three dissident Republicans nominated for speaker. The small organized opposition to Boehner provided the only early drama on a day that normally supplies ceremonial picture taking and minimal first-day duties.

None of the other eight Michigan Republicans announced opposition to Boehner. Freshman Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, and Upper Peninsula Rep. Dan Benishek were among those supporting him.

“I voted in support of Speaker John Boehner today because I’m focused on getting to work on issues that unite us, not divide us,” said Bishop, the former Michigan Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2010. “Our new American Congress is ready to hit the ground running, and Speaker Boehner deserves a chance to work with a real partner in this Republican Senate.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was elected majority leader in the Senate as Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, was sworn in as Michigan’s 41st senator.

Five new House members for Michigan’s delegation were sworn in, including Republicans Dave Trott of Birmingham and John Moolenaar of Midland as well as Democrats Debbie Dingell of Dearborn and Brenda Lawrence of Southfield.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, swore in Boehner as speaker because he has now served in Congress 50 years and is the longest-serving House member and the “dean,” replacing Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who retired last year.

Former Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, accompanied Peters as he and other newly elected senators were sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden. Peters was holding his mother’s Bible, his office said.

Peters cast his first vote — an easy one — voting “present” as the Senate established that a majority of members were there.

Peters told reporters on a conference call he looked forward to working with Republicans on legislation both parties could agree on. He said winning funding for a U.S. customs plaza for a new Detroit River bridge crossing to Windsor is a top priority. Peters will be serving on the committee that oversees the Homeland Security Department.

“The American people and folks in Michigan are watching very closely and they are expecting us to find middle ground,” Peters said, adding “it’s not about (Democrats) just accepting whatever the Republicans put on the table. It’s also about having some give and take.”

He said he expected the Commerce Committee would take up auto safety legislation and he wanted to see the “right balance” in protecting consumer safety.

Michigan is losing more than 100 combined years of seniority in Congress, including the chairmen of three committees in Congress.

The freshmen House Democrats haven’t yet received committee assignments.

“My priority is to put the people of Michigan first every single day, and I am eager to get to work on bipartisan solutions that help grow our economy and create good-paying jobs, make sure health care is affordable, and ensure college is within reach for middle-class families,” Rep. Debbie Dingell said in a statement.

“These are not Democratic or Republican concerns, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move our state and our country forward.”