House Republicans elected Rep. John Boehner of Ohio their new majority leader. He was the beneficiary of desire within the conference for a break with the DeLay leadership team, with which acting majority leader Roy Blunt of Missouri was identified. Blunt now continues as majority whip, the third most senior spot in leadership. The candidate NR endorsed, John Shadegg of Arizona, finished third on the first ballot, and most of his supporters then swung behind Boehner on the second ballot, securing his surprise victory. Boehner and Blunt must now put their sometimes-contentious race behind them and resolve to work together for the benefit of their colleagues. It would also behoove Boehner to give Shadegg an informal seat at the leadership table; the Arizonian is a strong conservative voice on policy and has credibility with his fellow conservatives in the conference, who are likely to stay restive until the end of the year. Boehner campaigned as a conservative reformer. A standard for judging whether he lives up to that self-billing will be whether he can pass reforms of the budget process — including of earmarks — proposed by young turks Paul Ryan and Jeb Hensarling. Republicans face tough going ahead, including what is likely to be an assault by the press on Boehner’s K Street ties. Meaningful reforms, and a recommitment to conservative principle, will be the surest evidence that K Street donors and their allies don’t have undue influence on Capitol Hill.
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