WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Florida is a "plodder" — his words — and he has maintained that style since arriving in Washington four years ago. But on Tuesday the Republican became the lead protagonist of an attempted coup against House Speaker John Boehner.
"No regrets," Webster said in an interview Wednesday as he and his staff were still caught in the whirlwind of attention.
Webster did not get enough votes to oust Boehner, but the attempt illustrated rank-and-file dissatisfaction with Republican leadership.
"I felt like I had a message to give and an opportunity to do it — that is, I want to have a more member-driven process where every member gets an opportunity to play. Take a pyramid of power where a few people make the decisions, push it down, spread it out," Webster said. "We have a lot of talented people in this Congress and we can avoid a lot of unintended consequences if we just included them."
Webster, who is 65 and lives in Winter Garden, got the idea about running just before lawmakers left for the holiday break. The House had taken up a measure to keep the government running, and some wanted the time frame to be shorter and review the status in the new year.
But House leaders would not allow a vote on the amendment. "There should be an opportunity to air it out, even if you lose. They should provide the opportunity," Webster said.
After a meeting of the Rules Committee, which Webster sat on, some members approached Webster and asked him to consider running for speaker. He thought it over but waited until the last minute to go forward.
"It's something I had to really think through, and I think that's why it took me so long to make a decision. The stakes were pretty high," Webster said.
That hesitancy probably cost him votes.
And Boehner exacted revenge, booting Webster from the Rules Committee. On Wednesday, Boehner had a different tone, saying he had not spoken with Webster, or with fellow Florida Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Spring Hill, who voted for Webster and was also stripped of his committee duties. Boehner said he would have a "family conversation" with Republicans, who are headed to a retreat later this month in Pennsylvania.
But tension is likely to persist, as it has since Boehner climbed to the top post with the GOP takeover of the House in 2010. Will Webster, who was speaker of the Florida House from 1996 to 1998, try again in two years?
He won't rule it out.
"You remember when I used to say, 'I'm a plodder, not a prophet'? Today I'm plodding — I'm not prophesying what I'm going to do in the future. My focus right now is to help in any way I can to unify our conference around an agenda. We've got to prove that we can lead, and I'm going to be all-in to help prove that."
As for Boehner taking him off the Rules Committee, a post Webster relished: "I would fully support the speaker's decision, or at least his ability to make a decision on who's going to be on that committee. It's different from any other committee. It's set aside as a committee that the speaker needs to move an agenda."
In an awkward moment after the vote for speaker, Webster had his official swearing-in photo taken with Boehner. "My family was the buffer," he joked.
"In the end this is not personal. I was in this to try to influence the process. Done," Webster said. "John Boehner is a friend."
Contact Alex Leary at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @learyreports.