Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is known for not mincing words, went after Boehner's integrity in a statement.
"He made public comments promising to live by whatever agreement the Senate reached," Schumer said. Boehner "said, ‘If the Senate acts, I'm committed to bringing the House back—we can do it within 24 hours—to deal with whatever the Senate does.' The Senate came to a deal, and now Speaker Boehner must keep his word."
The showdown is just the latest battle in a larger war where skirmishes over smaller issues mask a larger divide. And so the fight last spring over the government shutdown got jammed up on small bits of discretionary spending and a GOP attempt to remove all federal funding from Planned Parenthood. The summer's debt-ceiling crisis was all about cutting spending — resulting in the creation of that now infamous failure, the super committee.
This time, issues from the Keystone XL pipeline to riders on Cuban travel were irresistible chances for a barroom fight. Congress is divided not because it's dyspeptic but because districts are more partisan than ever. And even when they're not, members live in such fear of primary challenges that they hew to their party's I.D. rather than go with their own moderate instincts. They've seen the likes of former Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, become road kill.
So many forces are converging to make end-of-sessions more and more painful. Without this freshman class, there would have been no showdown over the debt ceiling. Their volatility combined with a broken committee process, the end of earmarks—which had a way of smoothing over differences—and a willingness by all sides to use extraordinary means, especially the GOP's flamboyant use of the filibuster, all led to this December stalemate. At a certain point, Congress begins to resemble the drunkard at last call, torn between wanting to go home and having a compelling need to stay.
Major Garrett, Dan Friedman, Shane Goldmacher and Ben Terris contributed.