Can John Boehner Win?

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) answers reporters' questions during a brief news conference after the weekly House Republican Caucus meeting at the Capitol, July 31, 2013.
National Journal
Michael Catalin and Billy House
Add to Briefcase
Michael Catalin Billy House
Sept. 30, 2013, 6:23 p.m.

Speak­er John Boehner has been a pivotal play­er in a seem­ingly no-win game.

With a deal to avert a gov­ern­ment shut­down sub­ject to a series of vol­leys between the House and the Sen­ate as the mid­night Monday dead­line neared, the Ohio Re­pub­lic­an’s repu­ta­tion and his place in his­tory were called in­to ques­tion.

“Act like the speak­er of the House and not a speak­er of the Re­pub­lic­ans,” urged Sen. Bar­bara Box­er, D-Cal­if., dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Monday, a char­ac­ter­iz­a­tion of Boehner’s ap­proach she sug­ges­ted was not the way former Demo­crat­ic Speak­er Tip O’Neill would have handled things.

In the House, some GOP cent­rists like Reps. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., were pub­licly sug­gest­ing it was time for Boehner to do what he be­lieves. That would have been, ac­cord­ing to Dent, for Boehner to set aside de­mands of hard-liners in his con­fer­ence in fa­vor of a stop­gap spend­ing bill without the anti-Obama­care pro­vi­sions that Pres­id­ent Obama and the Sen­ate were sure to re­ject.

But a move like that is risky in today’s polit­ic­al en­vir­on­ment.

“He’d win the ap­prov­al of his­tory and pun­dits if he had chosen to break with the hard-liners, but that would come at the cost of his po­s­i­tion, for the hard-liners would not vote for him again,” sug­ges­ted Brooks Simpson, a his­tor­i­an at Ari­zona State Uni­versity.

“I sus­pect he likes be­ing speak­er in name too much to act as speak­er in fact…. He’s no Henry Clay or Sam Ray­burn,” Simpson said.

Polit­ic­al-sci­ence pro­fess­or Paul Brace of Rice Uni­versity says Boehner will be re­membered as a speak­er forced to con­front hard choices, no mat­ter what their out­come in com­ing days.

“Form­ally power­ful but prac­tic­ally neutered, an ob­ject of scorn among GOP hard-liners and the tra­di­tion­al “˜whip­ping boy’ of his par­tis­an op­pos­i­tion, there are few ways for­ward that are rosy for the speak­er,” Brace said. “He will likely be viewed as culp­able for a shut­down, but a sym­bol of ap­pease­ment if no shut­down.”

“While im­me­di­ate con­sequences will likely em­an­ate from his choices, time will tell how his­tory un­packs his leg­acy as he weighs his rock-and-hard-place op­tions,” he ad­ded.

Many House Re­pub­lic­ans, par­tic­u­larly con­ser­vat­ives, re­main sus­pi­cious of Boehner as someone too eager to cut deals with Obama and Demo­crats.

It’s a sen­ti­ment that’s led him to walk a tightrope, and caused some tense days be­fore his reelec­tion as speak­er by a bare ma­jor­ity in Janu­ary. Just two years earli­er, Boehner won all GOP votes in his first elec­tion.

On the oth­er hand, any would-be suc­cessors from the House’s con­ser­vat­ive wing would them­selves have to worry about keep­ing mod­er­ates in the con­fer­ence happy, at the risk of los­ing sup­port.

But one House con­ser­vat­ive says he’s come to sym­path­ize with Boehner for be­ing such a tar­get of hard-liners. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ar­iz., said its really un­fair not to give the speak­er some cred­it for hav­ing to do battle not only with Demo­crats in the Sen­ate and a Demo­crat­ic pres­id­ent, but the me­dia, as well.

“The real­ity is the en­gin­eer­ing here does not all add up to our fa­vor,” said Franks, who ad­ded that he thinks Boehner has been able “to make lem­on­ade out of this much more than some give him cred­it for.”

Boehner is also a fa­vor­ite punch­ing bag for Sen­ate Demo­crats. Sen. Chuck Schu­mer, D-N.Y., reg­u­larly says he feels sorry for the speak­er. Any­one who knows Boehner, Schu­mer says, knows he’s not as ex­treme as the tea-party wing of his caucus.

“Now, the funny thing is, Speak­er Boehner knows he won’t suc­ceed but the hard Right is de­mand­ing a pound of flesh to show how ser­i­ous they are, how much they hate Obama­care,” Schu­mer said. “By go­ing along with the hard Right, Speak­er Boehner is like the an­cient May­ans, mak­ing a sac­ri­fi­cial of­fer­ing to the right-wing gods by re­fus­ing to ac­cept a clean CR.”

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., who has re­cently taken to call­ing House Re­pub­lic­ans “an­arch­ists,” used school-yard im­agery to de­scribe the con­ser­vat­ive wing of the House GOP.

“With a bully, you can­not let them slap you around, be­cause they slap you around today, if they slap you five or six times, to­mor­row it’s sev­en or eight times,” Re­id said.

As for the Sen­ate, Re­id said, “we are not go­ing to be bul­lied. We have done everything we can, and we’ve done it very reas­on­ably.”

What We're Following See More »
AMDIST TRUMP’S CRITICISM
Session to Annouce Leak Investigations
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

The stand off between President Trump and A.G. Sessions is escalating. But Sessions is standing his ground and getting work done. "Officials said Sessions is due to announce in coming days a number of criminal leak investigations based on news accounts of sensitive intelligence information. And within hours of Trump’s public broadside, the Justice Department announced it would change a police funding program to add new requirements that cities help federal agents find undocumented immigrants to receive grants."

Source:
“DIALOGUE IMPOSSIBLE”
Russia Ready to Retaliate for New Sanctions
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Russia threatened to retaliate against new sanctions passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, saying they made it all but impossible to achieve the Trump administration’s goal of improved relations." Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said hope “is dying” for improved relations because the scale of “the anti-Russian consensus in Congress makes dialogue impossible and for a long time." The bill passed with only three "no" votes.

Source:
TRUMP ANNOUNCES VIA TWEETS
Transgender Individuals to be Ban from Military
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
NEW ASSESSMENT SHRINKS TIMELINE
N. Korea Could Strike U.S. with ICBM by Next Year
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year, U.S. officials have concluded in a confidential assessment that dramatically shrinks the timeline for when Pyongyang could strike North American cities with atomic weapons. The new assessment by the ­Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which shaves a full two years off the consensus forecast for North Korea’s ICBM program, was prompted by recent missile tests showing surprising technical advances by the country’s weapons scientists, at a pace beyond what many analysts believed was possible for the isolated communist regime."

Source:
ONLY THREE NO VOTES
House Sends Sanctions Bill to Senate
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login