U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney declined Thursday to support giving U.S. Rep. John Boehner a second term as House speaker, joining 11 other Republican lawmakers who protested the Ohioan’s leadership.
On the first day of the new two-year session of Congress, Boehner was re-elected speaker with 220 votes, all Republican.
Mulvaney, however, waged a silent protest that lit up the Internet as reporters and political junkies around the country watched the proceedings live at the U.S. Capitol and broadcast on C-SPAN.
Nine Republican lawmakers voted for someone other than Boehner, three of them backing his deputy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
Mulvaney, by contrast, declined to vote for anyone despite being present in the House chamber. Raul Labrador of Idaho, like Mulvaney a tea party favorite who first gained election in 2010, chose the same tactic.
On his way into the House chamber, Mulvaney signaled that Boehner might face a rocky ride to re-election as speaker, urging reporters to “bring your calculator” and telling them the vote “should be interesting.”
With the tally underway after Mulvaney was sworn into his second House term, the Indian Land Republican left the chamber minutes before his turn to vote so that he wasn’t in the hall when his name was called.
As the voting continued, Mulvaney re-entered the chamber. When his name was called again, he chose not to respond.
Mulvaney, who represents South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, later declined to respond to subsequent requests for comment from reporters.
“Mick won’t be available to speak,” his press secretary, Stephanie Faile, told McClatchy. “He is spending the rest of the day with his family.”
Mulvaney has been critical of Boehner in recent weeks.
Mulvaney was among dozens of House Republicans who last month forced Boehner to pull from the floor his “Plan B” to avert the fiscal cliff, which would have increased taxes on annual household income over $1 million.
When Boehner and other congressional leaders subsequently negotiated a fiscal-cliff deal with President Barack Obama to raises taxes on annual household income over $450,000, Congress passed the package, but Mulvaney was among 151 House Republicans who voted against it Tuesday.
Mulvaney said Wednesday he was “deeply disappointed” by the deal, which did not include spending cuts.
“This is wrong,” he said. “It has to stop. We are spending ourselves into national decline. We had a chance last night to stop that, even if just for a bit. We failed. And by doing so, we failed the country.”
During the vote for House speaker, Mulvaney’s actions and movements were watched closely and reported almost instantaneously.
Scott McFarlane of Cox Media Group tweeted: “Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) steps out of chamber moments before his name is called to vote. No vote.”
Robert Costa of the National Review followed with his own tweet: “Mulvaney did not vote, off the House floor.”
Derek Willis, interactive news director for the New York Times, weighed in with his own tweet: “Mick Mulvaney takes a pass on Speaker vote.”