Tom Price eyeing bid for Speaker?

Tom Price

Last week, American Majority Action (AMA), a group frustrated with House Republican leadership’s willingness to raise taxes and the purge of conservatives from key committees, called for House Speaker John Boehner to be replaced. AMA explained that if 16 House Republicans were to abstain from the vote for Speaker in January that Boehner wouldn’t be re-elected.

Ned Ryun, president of AMA, wrote a call to action at RedState urging activists to start calling House Republicans to ask them to abstain from the vote. Some may dismiss the notion put forward by Ryun, but the idea, which has been endorsed by Erick Erickson, editor of RedState and a talk radio host, is gaining in popularity in conservative circles.

But instead of having Republican members abstain, they may actually have the opportunity to vote for an alternative.

This morning at National Review, Robert Costa explained that Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who lost a bid for House Republican Conference Chair last month, has emerged as Boehner’s biggest threat:

Should a debt deal go sour, the buzz is that Tom Price, a 58-year-old physician from Georgia, may challenge John Boehner for the speaker’s gavel.

“Price is the person we’re all watching,” says an aide close to House leadership. “We know he’s frustrated, but we don’t know much else.”

In an interview with National Review Online, Price won’t speculate about his future, but he acknowledges his growing uneasiness. “My concern is that within our conference, conservatives, who are a majority, don’t have a proper platform,” he says. “That’s true at the leadership table and on the steering committee.”
“I gave up a medical practice to stand up for principles,” says Price, an orthopedic surgeon and former state lawmaker. “My role is changing. My job isn’t so much to be part of the process at the leadership level, contributing to the work product, but to evaluate their work product.”

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.

This is an interesting development. Price has a solid reputation as a conservative and was backed by grassroots groups in his bid to lead the House Republican Conference. There has been a lot of speculation that Price, who just won re-election for a fourth term in the House, is considering a primary challenge to Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who recently indicated that he’s willing to raise taxes as part of “fiscal cliff” deal.

You would think that these are mixed messages. Price ran for a leadership post, has played coy about running against Chambliss, and is now talking about a bid for Speaker against Boehner. There is a method here. Costa quotes a Georgia-based consultant who explains that talk of Price running for Speaker is about “making his name as a conservative,” which could help him in a primary against Chambliss.

Price still has some issues back home. He backed Karen Handel in the gubernatorial primary in 2010, over his colleague, Rep. Nathan Deal. In fact, Price was the only member of the Republican delegation in Georgia not to back Deal.

Keep in mind that Deal, who won that primary and now serves as Governor of the Peach State, has been hesistant to endorse Chambliss. But during redistricting last year, Price found his district significantly changed, political payback for not endorsing Deal.

Of course, just because the establishment doesn’t like Price doesn’t mean he won’t win. Grassroots groups will likely spend heavily for him. While Price may ultimately decide to jump in the Senate race, it isn’t going to be a cakewalk, by any stretch of the imagination, despite Chambliss’ recent unpopularity.

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