Keep Boehner's leadership

In this Dec. 11, 2014 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

When the U.S. House votes for speaker today it should return John Boehner, R-Ohio, to the seat he has held for the last four years.

Some tea party members of the House Republican Caucus will try to try block Mr. Boehner's re-election - and one head count claims they have all but a small number of the necessary votes.

The rebels are being urged on by conservatives who think Mr. Boehner should have taken a bigger risk of shutting down the government in December negotiations on an omnibus spending bill for the current federal fiscal year. These critics wanted to use that threat to undo the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the president's executive amnesty program for illegal immigrants. They also cite a Democratic pollster who recently found 60 percent of Republican voters unfavorable to Rep. Boehner.

But a fair reading of the speaker's record for the past four years gives little support to the view that he has failed to use Republican leverage to advance conservative positions - including some held by the tea party.

Instead, Mr. Boehner has accomplished a lot with a little. While the House has been Republican under his leadership, the other two centers of political power, the Senate and the White House, have been in Democratic hands. Mr. Boehner has led his fractious party in showing that it can take an effective stand when necessary and cooperate for the greater good.

In particular, the House has led the way toward restraining the federal budget and deficit. The omnibus spending bill criticized by Mr. Boehner's opponents took a necessary first step toward restoring defense spending to adequate levels by a compromise that allowed a very modest increase in spending for domestic programs.

Going forward, most Americans want to see a government that works and addresses the nation's business. A successfully led national legislature is essential to that task. What it does in 2015 will have a powerful impact on voting in the 2016 presidential election.

With the omnibus spending bill, Mr. Boehner and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., showed that they could drive a hard bargain and still find room for bipartisan action.

Changes to Obamacare and a challenge to executive amnesty are high on the GOP agenda, along with badly needed legislation to reform the tax system. It will take skillful leadership and the avoidance of fiscal cliffs to enact even part of this ambitious program.

John Boehner has proved that he has the practical and political skills to provide such leadership, and deserves to be re-elected speaker.