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Boehner could face rocky vote for speakership amid Republican angst

 

John Boehner could be in for a fight Thursday when the newly seated House votes for the next speaker, with conservatives grumbling about his leadership and a report surfacing about a supposed plan to challenge him. 

The 11-term congressman, who's endured his share of political turbulence, presumably enters the election with the upper hand. So far, a single viable Republican challenger has not emerged and the rules of the vote tend to work in Boehner's favor. 

But Boehner's potential troubles were compounded by a late-night flare up with outraged Northeast lawmakers over a decision by the speaker to postpone a vote on an aid package for Superstorm Sandy victims. 

For the near term, the speaker appears to have weathered those complaints, assuring members in a closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon they will vote by Jan. 15. Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who initially described the postponement as a "betrayal" and threatened to abstain from voting for Boehner, said after the meeting he would back Boehner. 

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who earlier lashed out at the GOP leadership in a string of interviews and remarks, said the same. 

But a spate of other flare-ups over the past several days and weeks among House Republicans has stoked threats about resistance -- or at least some drama -- Thursday. Conservatives were already miffed that Boehner, early on in talks over the fiscal crisis, had agreed to new revenue. Boehner suffered another blow two weeks ago when his "Plan B" fiscal bill failed to garner enough Republican backers. But the final fiscal-crisis bill, which arrived from the Senate early Tuesday morning, ultimately garnered thin support from the GOP ranks. While Boehner and 84 other Republicans voted for it, 151 Republicans opposed it -- more Democrats than Republicans voted for the bill. 

Amid the angst, a draft plan was supposedly circulating on Capitol Hill laying out a possible path for challenging Boehner. Ron Meyer, press secretary for the anti-Boehner group American Majority Action, told FoxNews.com that the document is legitimate, though he wasn't sure who started circulating it. 

"I've talked to members who've seen it," he said. 

A copy of the supposed plan posted by Breitbart.com lays out a two-stage process for challenging Boehner. First, it calls for somebody coming forward to urge a vote by secret ballot -- which would allow members to vote without fear of retaliation. Then, the document suggests, challengers could emerge. 

The process for the vote is a bit complicated. For the time being, the only candidates for nomination would be Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. 

The only way for someone to win the speakership is to win a majority (more than 50 percent) of all votes cast. If everybody votes, that means the winner must ultimately attract 218 votes. There are 234 Republicans in the new Congress, but if Boehner loses 17 of them, it's enough to kick the vote to a second ballot -- something that hasn't happened since 1923. 

Pelosi could conceivably win the speakership, but only if Republicans cross over to vote for her or if enough Republicans actually abstain from voting. More likely, if there are enough defections, is that the vote would move into multiple rounds of ballots, with anti-Boehner conservative members basically trying to drum up a viable Republican challenger to Boehner on the spot. 

Some on Capitol Hill, in both parties, were stoking the idea Wednesday that there was a rift emerging in the GOP leadership. 

King claimed that Boehner and House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, who opposed the fiscal package Tuesday, were not on speaking terms. He said Cantor, who apparently had been pushing for a vote on the Sandy aid bill, did not find out about Boehner's decision to scratch it until Boehner's staff informed Republican lawmakers, who then told Cantor.  

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also repeatedly referenced "palace intrigue" among the House GOP leadership, during a press conference Wednesday blasting Boehner over the Sandy bill delay. 

Cantor's office voiced support for Boehner in a statement to Fox News. 

"They remain in contact and have meetings together today. The majority leader supports the speaker," Cantor's office said in a statement. 

FoxNews.com's Judson Berger and Fox News' Chad Pergram, Doug McKelway and Shannon Bream contributed to this report.