More on Boehner’s dilemma

Robert Costa writes for the National Review and thus has access to Republican party insiders. He confirms and expands on what I wrote about two days ago about the dilemma facing John Boehner, who is as conservative as most of his members but is powerless as a deal maker because the tools to bribe and punish people to follow his lead are simply not there anymore. So he has become largely a follower.

As Costa says:

What we’re seeing is the collapse of institutional Republican power. It’s not so much about Boehner. It’s things like the end of earmarks. They move away from Tom DeLay and they think they’re improving the House, but now they have nothing to offer their members. The outside groups don’t always move votes directly but they create an atmosphere of fear among the members. And so many of these members now live in the conservative world of talk radio and tea party conventions and Fox News invitations. And so the conservative strategy of the moment, no matter how unrealistic it might be, catches fire. The members begin to believe they can achieve things in divided government that most objective observers would believe is impossible. Leaders are dealing with these expectations that wouldn’t exist in a normal environment.

Costa says that “there are 30 to 40 true hardliners. But there’s another group of maybe 50 to 60 members who are very much pressured by the hardliners.” There are apparently enough Republicans among thr rest who would vote for a ‘clean’ continuing resolution for it to pass with Democratic votes if it were ever brought to a vote on the floor of the House. Although Boehner may want to make a deal to keep government running, he cannot do so without risking his job, because there is a good chance that those hardliners and sympathizers would be furious enough to remove him as Speaker, apparently a job whose perks he loves and is loathe to give up even though right now it is thankless.

As long as he panders to those in his caucus who might be thinking about dethroning him, his job is safe since no other ambitious party member who might be eying to take over (Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Tom Coles, Kevin McCarthy) want to take it on at this fractious time since they would have no solutions either. They are waiting for him to take all the arrows and he seems willing to do that as long as he keeps the title of Speaker.

So we have ended up in this situation where the Republicans are locked into a situation where they are flailing away at the Affordable Care Act while the government shuts down and important functions are not performed.

This cartoon pretty much captures what is happening to the country right now.



  1. dmcclean says

    (This is a far out prediction, the kind that probably won’t happen but that could gather momentum quickly.)

    I think if Boehner does end up losing the speakership, which to me is looking more and more likely since there is no realistic face saving exit strategy here, that the lunatic faction and the less-loony faction might share an interest in electing Cruz speaker. (Yes, the house, like the college of cardinals, can theoretically elect anyone they want.) It benefits the lunatics because Cruz is a lunatic, and it benefits the less-loony faction because they might think that Cruz can do more damage to them in the primaries by throwing bombs from the outside than he can if he has skin in the game.

  2. colnago80 says

    There was an interesting comment on a thread on Brayton’s blog by a D. C. Sessions which I reproduce here:

    Once Pelosi (who, unlike Boehner, can count votes before they go the floor) has 218 lined up, she can file a discharge petition and the Hastert Rule can go suck on a sewer pipe.

    That’s interesting because that would bypass Boehner and his Hastert rule. We’ll see. As I said in a comment to his comment, Pelosi comes from the hard nose school of politics, being a native of Baltimore where they play hardball. Her father was a former mayor of Baltimore and Congressman from Maryland; her brother is a former mayor of Baltimore. There is nothing at all San Francisco in her.

  3. Mano Singham says

    The catch is that while Cruz may well be able to harness a majority within the Republican caucus, I don’t think that he can get 218 votes from within the caucus. Would the Democratic caucus vote to put him over the top? It seems unlikely. Furthermore, there are ambitious Republicans angling for the top job too. The only thing holding them back right now from fomenting a coup against Boehner is likely because they want him to take the fall for any debacle. So as long as this kind of paralysis continues, Boehner’s job is safe even if he looks weak and ineffective.

    It is truly weird.

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