Rumors are flying that John Boehner does not have the votes to stay on as Speaker of the House. The Speaker of the House is elected in every new term of Congress, and the 113th Congress begins today with the swearing in of every newly elected and reelected member of Congress. Democrats have their leader, Nancy Pelosi, and while it is presumed they will place a symbolic vote for Pelosi for Speaker, it is also assumed that Republicans are not so mutinous and disorganized as to split their vote enough to allow Pelosi a plurality of votes as the next Speaker of the House. So why vote for John Boehner for Speaker?
Because right now, John Boehner needs friends and the Democrats need John Boehner. Yes, he's several football fields to the right of any Democrat, but he's the best they are going to get. If John Boehner were to be replaced as Speaker of the House, the next House Speaker would be Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan or someone else less willing to compromise with the White House. Of those, Boehner was the only one to join 85 other Republicans in voting for the bill to stave off the fiscal cliff. Many Democrats didn't love that deal, but they voted for it, because they wanted to make a deal, and the bill that passed was far better than nothing passing.
And that leads me to my next point: Democrats want to reinforce the idea that Speaker Boehner can get legislation passed in two ways: with full Republican support, or with full Democratic support with a handful of Republicans. The fiscal cliff vote could be an aberration, or, if Democrats push for it, a sign of things to come. Why not continue that trend with the Speaker of the House vote? Besides, the House ultimately has to work with the Democratic-controlled Senate. Some real support from the minority party to the once and future Speaker of the House could go a long way toward opening lines with a guy who loves to make deals.