Largely propelled by conservatives, the House rejected a so-called "clean" Homeland Security Department spending bill on Friday – a defeat that is being seen as more than just a snub of a legislative measure.
It was, political experts largely agree, a snub of Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
The speaker failed to corral his own party to pass a temporary, three-week funding bill for DHS that would not include language rolling back President Barack Obama’s controversial executive order suspending deportation for up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. (The removal of which is what made some refer to the the bill as “clean.”)
At the last minute, to avoid a partial shutdown of DHS by the Friday night deadline, Boehner was able to get an affirmative vote for just one week's funding for the agency.
But conservatives in the GOP, growing increasingly frustrated over what they see as the speaker’s over-willingness to compromise with Democrats, are talking mutiny.
Twenty members recently sent a letter to Boehner and other GOP leaders urging them to fight against Obama’s immigration executive orders, which they view as unconstitutional.
"Now is the time to stand firm against these unlawful executive actions," said the letter, according to Reuters.
Those who signed the letter include long-time immigration hard-liners such as Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Louis Gohmert of Texas and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.
Talk of an anti-Boehner coup has been simmering for a while.
In January, conservatives pressed for him not to be selected for a third term as speaker. Mulvaney warned his fellow conservatives that they were fighting the wrong fight.
"The hard truth is that we had an election for Speaker in November – just among Republicans,” Mulvaney said in a statement quoted in the Huffington Post. “That was the time to fight.”
“But not a single person ran against Boehner,” Mulvaney said. “Not one. If they had, we could’ve had a secret ballot to find out what the true level of opposition to John Boehner was. In fact, we could’ve done that as late as Monday night, on a vote of 'no confidence' in the speaker."
Mulvaney told his conservative colleagues that fighting Boehner, especially so publicly, would only succeed in alienating them from the rest of the GOP and could perhaps give more leverage to Democrats.
"Some people tried to argue that voting against Boehner would give conservatives leverage, or somehow force him to lead in a more conservative fashion, even if the coup attempt failed," he said in the statement. "All I can say to that is that the exact opposite happened two years ago: conservatives were marginalized, and Boehner was even freer to work with moderates and Democrats."
On immigration, Boehner has sent mixed messages.
After the stark defeat of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 – a defeat that was in part seen as rooted in harsh talk about immigration during the GOP primaries – Boehner said it was time to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
But while the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that included tightened border security as well as a path to earned legalization for some undocumented immigrants, the House refused to vote on the measure, with conservatives objecting to dealing with anything that gave a break to people who had broken immigration laws.
In the last few months, Boehner has been outspoken about fighting Obama’s executive order through lawsuits.
Politico noted: “Five years into the job, he’s a leader consistently buffeted by forces beyond his control.”
“The legislative calendar guarantees it won’t get any easier: in the coming weeks and months there will be battles over the debt ceiling, budget, taxes, and spending cuts,” Politico said. “The question is how many more of these episodes Boehner can withstand.”
All told, some Republicans and political observers say the talk about booting Boehner won’t translate into actual action.
Rep. Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, said, “It’s more talk than anything else,” according to Politico.
South Carolina's Rep. Trey Gowdy sounded the same sentiment.
“Being in leadership is a tough job, which is why so few people raise their hands and volunteer to do it. It’s easy where I sit just to kind of second guess,” Gowdy told Politico. “I believe in self-reflection, and then after that self-reflection, if you have something to say, you say it to them personally.”