After the House GOP rejected John Boehner’s “Plan B” to avoid the year-end fiscal cliff, many predicted that his days as speaker of the House were numbered. As it turns out, they might have been, had a higher power not intervened. At the time, there were reports that a plan to unseat Boehner was called off at the last minute, allowing him to narrowly survive the January 3 vote. It was never clear what prompted this change of heart, but according to a Washington Post report on the discord within the House GOP, “The cabal quickly fell apart when several Republicans, after a night of prayer, said God told them to spare the speaker.”
The defectors didn’t have a particular person selected to replace Boehner, but they planned to prevent him from reaching a majority on the first ballot, forcing a second vote. They hoped that at that point someone else (such as Eric Cantor or Paul Ryan) would emerge, and if not, it would still send Boehner a message.
Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida said that on the night before the vote, he turned to the Bible for guidance, and came upon the story of Saul, the king of Israel, and David, his future successor. David has two opportunities to kill Saul, but decides to spare the king. Southerland slept for three hours, and when he woke up he was convinced that he should vote for Boehner. According to the Post, “Others, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they, too, prayed before siding with Boehner.”
Six months later, there’s still a rift between House leaders and more recent Tea Party–affiliated additions. Boehner hasn’t been able to rally the conference on major issues, so it doesn’t seem his colleagues were particularly impressed with his miraculous survival as speaker.