Somebody is going to get burned by House Speaker John Boehner this week. And he does not have very much time to determine who it will be.
After cutting a last-minute deal Friday night to fund the Homeland Security Department for one week, the speaker now has a vital choice to make: Does he stand with the conservative members of his party who insist that the funding measure must be used as a chance to block President Obama’s immigration action, or does he work with Democrats and the moderates in his own party to pass a clean funding measure that avoids a DHS shutdown but leaves immigration alone.
In an appearance on “Face the Nation” Sunday, Boehner staked out his ground against the president, sounding much as he did throughout last week: “I made it clear we’re going to do everything we could to block the president’s executive over-reach, and that’s the basis of the problem we’re trying to deal with.” Boehner blamed Senate Democrats — who repeatedly blocked the House’s original DHS bill, which included immigration language — for that process failing.
Boehner wouldn’t go much further though in discussing the split within his own caucus on what to do next. “We do have some members who disagree from time to time over the tactics that we decide to employ,” Boehner said, adding that “the goals are all the same.”
Democrats say Boehner promised them last Friday that he would give them a vote on a clean DHS bill before this coming Friday’s shutdown deadline. Conservatives on the Hill and off it insist that not only would such a move leave what they see as Obama’s executive over-reach untouched, but it would also set a dangerous tone for the duration of this Congress, establishing an early precedent under Republican control suggesting that leadership won’t stand strong against the minority.
Asked Sunday if he made such a promise to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Boehner said, “The promise I made to Ms. Pelosi is the same promise I made to Republicans, that we follow regular order.”
And it’s not just DHS funding that Boehner has on his plate this week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give a highly controversial speech to Congress on Tuesday, after receiving an invitation to do so in January from Boehner. That speech comes just weeks before Israeli elections, which has the White House and some other Democrats fuming. National Security Adviser Susan Rice has called the speech “destructive” to the U.S.-Israel relationship.
“What I do wonder,” Boehner said Sunday, “is why the White House feels threatened because the Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say.” The speaker added that “the animosity between the White House and the prime minister is no secret here in this town.”
Despite the last week’s tumult, there’s no real indication right now that Boehner’s speakership is in jeopardy. No Republicans have plans to oust him, and there’s no clear challenger waiting in the wings. But this week, with the shutdown clock again running, may just set the tone for the duration of his leadership and show whether or not he’s able to keep his party together while ensuring that the government stays open.
Asked by guest-host John Dickerson if he likes his job, Boehner said, “Most days, Friday wasn’t all that fun, but most days.”
“It was just messy,” he said. “And I’m not into messy. I enjoy being in a legislative body. I enjoy all the personalities. And I’ve got a lot of them.”
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