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Speaker’s end: How past House leaders have left
Here’s a look at how some recent speakers have lost their jobs — or held onto them.
Storified by Digital First Media · Wed, Dec 12 2012 07:55:30
Some conservatives reportedly are talking about mounting a challenge to House Speaker John Boehner’s leadership in January. One possible challenger
already rejected the option
. Here’s a look at how recent speakers lost their jobs — or held onto them.
A failed rebellion
House Majority Leader Dick Armey shares a laugh with Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
Several top Republicans
tried to oust Speaker Newt Gingrich
in 1997 because of concerns that his leadership was ineffective. All they managed to do was undermine their own positions. The rebels included one or more top House leaders, possibly including future Speaker John Boehner. (Accounts differ, naturally.) But after the effort leaked to the media, the group found it didn’t have an endgame and Gingrich survived. One member called the effort a “circular firing squad.”
A poor midterm showing
Speaker Newt Gingrich hugs a neighbor before announcing he would resign in 1998. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)
Gingrich already faced dissatisfaction from within the Republican ranks. But after the 1998 midterm elections went poorly for the GOP, the speaker was held responsible for the party’s losses. A few days after the election, it became clear that
he did not have the votes to remain as speaker
, so he stepped down. “I’m not willing to preside over people who are cannibals,” he reportedly said.
Former Speaker Tom Foley stands outside the federal courthouse in Spokane, Wash., in 2001. (AP Photo/Jeff T. Green)
Democratic Speaker Tom Foley was a top ally of President Clinton in Congress, but that meant he was tied to some unpopular parts of Clinton’s agenda in a conservative House district in Eastern Washington. His opposition to a state term limits initiative also hurt his popularity. During the 1994 midterm elections, Foley lost to Republican George Nethercutt, the
first time a sitting Speaker had been deposed by the voters since 1860
Former House Speaker Jim Wright tours the World War II Memorial in 2005. (AP Photo/Yuri Gripas)
An avid reader, it was natural that Democratic Speaker Jim Wright might write a book. But the slim 117-page volume he wrote was mostly a collection of already written speeches. And
most of the copies were bought by his friends
— in bulk. After the House Ethics Committee began an investigation, Wright found his effectiveness waning and turned in his resignation. He was the first speaker to resign because of a scandal.
Losing the majority
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi talks to reporters in 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The most common way for speakers of the House to leave is to lose the majority. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was
demoted to minority leader
after Republicans won the majority in the 2010 midterms. But some past speakers have returned to office. In fact, Democrat Sam Rayburn and Republican Joseph William Martin Jr. traded the post back and forth twice between 1940 and 1955.