DesJarlais, Cooper Break Partisan Ranks in U.S. House Speaker Votes

The United States House of Representatives has re-elected Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to another two-year term.

Two of Tennessee’s representatives — Scott DesJarlais, a Republican from the 4th District, and Jim Cooper, a Democrat from the 5th District — broke ranks with their respective parties to cast votes for someone other than the official party nominees.

DesJarlais joined 24 other Republicans in casting a vote against the incumbent speaker — the biggest rebellion against a sitting House speaker in around 100 years. Mermbers of congressional GOP leadership have expressed hope that Boehner’s victory without the support of conservative hardliners could mean he’ll have more freedom to establish a more tempered conservative agenda.

DesJarlais said the current Republican House leadership is unpopular with his constituents, in a statement explaining his vote for Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. DesJarlais didn’t say why he cast his vote for Jordan, who also picked up a vote from U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican and the chairman of the House Liberty Caucus.

In 2009, Jordan, a conservative who is also from Ohio, “introduced the only balanced budget alternative to President Obama’s budget,” according to his congressional webpage.

“Speaker Boehner has certainly accomplished a lot during his tenure and I am thankful for his leadership these past few years. However, I join my constituents in their belief that we need a new direction and a fresh approach,” DesJarlais said in the statement.

Likewise, Cooper voted for retired four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell instead of joining his fellow Democrats to vote for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who held the position of Speaker prior to the GOP takeover of the House in 2010.

“Colin Powell gets my vote again this year. He’s willing to work with both parties, he’s a military expert, and he’s a master diplomat. Most importantly, he isn’t scared of reform. There’s nothing that needs it like Congress,” Cooper said in a prepared statement.

The U.S. Constitution places no limit on who may serve as Speaker of the House, and Cooper previously cast his vote for Powell to take the U.S. House’s top post in 2013. Although there is no prohibition on non-members serving as Speaker, it has never happened before.

Cooper himself received one vote to serve in the position from fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, of Florida.

Votes were also cast for U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Other than the official party nominees, there were 13 more people House members suggested for the lower chamber’s top post.

Boehner was re-elected to the U.S. House’s top post for a third term with 216 votes. Pelosi received 164 votes.