UPDATED, 2:45 PM: Price Spokesman Ellen Carmichael said in a statement that Price does not, in fact, have plans to run against Boehner: “Congressman Price is not running for Speaker,” Carmichael said. “He is focused on real solutions to get America back on track. Those solutions reside in fundamental principles that embrace individual opportunity and economic freedom.”
Depending on how the “fiscal cliff” negotiations go, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., may challenge John Boehner, R-Ohio, for his speaker spot.
The National Review Online reports that Price, who recently lost a bid to become GOP conference chair to Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is reportedly mulling a bid for speaker, and is talking with other conservatives including anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
Price is the former chairman of the extremely conservative Republican Study Committee, and was an outspoken leader of Tea Party-friendly House Republicans who vehemently opposed healthcare reform in 2009. “If the speaker listens to the conference and agrees to not raise taxes, he’ll be successful,” Price told NRO. “So far, I think the speaker is doing that,” he said. “But we’ve got to watch what happens.” A “Price ally” also told the NRO: “[Price] is hoping for the best, hoping taxes don’t go up with any fiscal-cliff deal. But if Republican leaders make a mistake on taxes, he wants conservatives to battle.”
But a deal without tax hikes is increasingly unlikely. A growing number of Republicans — in the House and the Senate — are hinting that they’d be open to higher tax rates on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, in exchange for entitlement reform. So conservatives like Price are likely to be disappointed.
Add to that the outrage over Boehner’s “purge” of four conservatives from committees, reportedly for not falling in line on key votes, and the right is looking even more out of step with Boehner.
As he plots his next step, Price, a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, is conferring with backbenchers about their grievances. Some of them are angry with Boehner, following a decision by House leaders last week to remove four conservatives from their committees. Boehner said the move was not an ideological rebuke, but it caused trouble nonetheless.
“Tom has spoken with me about his concerns,” says a veteran House Republican. “He says he doesn’t want conservatives to get burned.” A second House Republican, who was elected in 2010, says Price is slowly building an informal coalition and chatting frequently with a tight circle of conservative members. In recent days, Price has also huddled with Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist, at Norquist’s office.
A recent New York Times article reported that Boehner still has broad support from his caucus, including leaders like Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Paul Ryan, R-Wis., meaning he will likely remain speaker regardless of a challenge from Price. But the rumblings reflect the growing divide within the Republican Party over how to regroup following their losses on Election Day.