Then came the 2012 elections, a rebuke of the tea party's ideas and leaders. Sensing an opportunity to wrest control of his party, or at least the House GOP, back from the fringe, Boehner went on offense. He kicked Reps. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Justin Amash (Mich.) and Dave Schweikert (Ariz.) off plum committees after the election, insisting that they had been insufficiently loyal to the party leadership on key votes — the most notable of which was on the budget proposal put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the vice-presidential nominee.
Stories of Boehner's re-emergence were crafted, citing his renewed power over his Republican colleagues and using the tea party committee purge as example No. 1. Emboldened by his newfound strength, Boehner set out to show some force in his negotiations with Obama over the "fiscal cliff." He introduced "Plan B," a bill that would preserve the George W. Bush-era tax cuts on everyone except those making $1 million or more a year, and he held a 51-second news conference pledging that it would pass the House and daring the president to ignore it.
Twenty-four hours later, Boehner released a statement admitting defeat. Plan B never made it to the House floor. The speaker and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, couldn't come close to securing the votes required.
The defeat was spurred by the tea party, which saw Boehner's plan not as a way to put political pressure on the president but as an unnecessary sacrifice of a core principle. That principle? It's never OK to raise taxes on anyone. As Boehner's strategy sunk, and with it, his power as speaker, it was the lawmakers he had punished who celebrated most heartily.
"Republican leadership thought they could silence conservatives when they kicked us off our Committees," Huelskamp said in a statement after Plan B's demise. "I'm glad that enough of my colleagues refused to back down from the threats and intimidation, thus preventing the Conference from abandoning our principles."