Bizarre twist in government shutdown debacle


Commensurate with the season, there are tricks and sometimes treats in obscure DC politics. As of a few minutes ago the US is technically shutdown, exactly like the Teaparty wing of the GOP intended and promised. But the latest political move in that saga by John Beohner is so strange it makes one worry the Speaker of the people’s House is suffering from something more serious than an embedded, intractable faction. And I don’t mean that in the usual funny way at the Speaker’s expense, it’s so irrational its almost cause for worry as far as Boehner’s state of mental health. It’s a little hard to explain why this so insider sad/funny if you don’t follow arcane procedures. The gist of it is he has requested the CR go to a conference. That has some people scratching their heads and that’s saying it nicely.

A crappy analogy might be a football coach being being interviewed on live TV and suddenly blurting out he demands the NFL draft commence in the third quarter of the ongoing football game. The announcers, officials, and fans on both sides would be a little confused and, probably, a little horrified. They would sure feel, shall we say, totally uncomfortable? As in imagine you were taking your family and your new date out to eat for the first time together, and that person happened to get blacked-out drunk and then publicly crap and piss their pants in the middle of dinner?

It’s just so strange, no one knows how to respond outside of giggling uncomfortably at Boehner. It took about five minutes for the main laughing jags and after-spasms to back off before I could calm down and write this

NBC — After a dizzying game of legislative ping-pong between the two chambers of Congress, a government shutdown appeared all but inevitable as the House tried to shift decision-making to a bipartisan “conference” of lawmakers from both chambers.But Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was insistent: “We will not go to conference with a gun to our head.”

Less than an hour before the funding deadline, House Republicans were set to formally request a bicameral committee late Monday evening to hash out some middle ground between the Democratic Senate’s “clean” government funding bill and the GOP-led House’s proposal to delay a key part of Obamacare and nix health care subsidies for congressional staffers.

Conference is a formal process where a committee made of appointed members of the House and Senate hash out variations in ledge the two bodies have approved or plan to approve. The mere act of appointing the members is potentially such a heated political issue, that the Senate GOP minority and especially the House majority wouldn’t dare to set up a conference on anything even remotely controversial. For good reason, in our system of governance, conference is the machinery of compromise, that’s what conference committees do, because that’s how democratic governments work. The Teaparty sees that democratic process, as indeed they view most government procedure, as evil. The House has members scared of a Teaparty primary, ergo they avoid conferences of any kind except on the most banal ledge.

In this teabagger dominated environment, a bill thanking former Redskins quarterback Joe Theisman for a charitable donation to blind orphans might make it to a conference committee to make both the Senate and House thank you language identical and thus the same bill, without causing a ruckus. Without some Teaparty loon going into cruz-control and making it into a outrage du jour, raising money and then running with it, to cut of his many equally sociopathic potential Teaparty primary challengers before they can do it. Putting anything to do with the budget in a conference, especially anything involving Obamacare, into this political gangland, would be like sprinkling rabid tigers with PCP.

It also tears open the barely scabbed over wound inflicted by the Senate ala the Ted Cruz show last week. Conferences usually take a long time and everyone has to work together more or less for bills. It’s such a strange, bizarre, so out there it’s near pathetic.

The scary and not so funny take away: John Boehner has absolutely no idea what to do. None. He is frozen, perhaps in fear, perhaps because of exhaustion, hell maybe he’s wasted and at this point I wouldn’t blame him. Or he may have lost his marbles once and for all. But either way, this won’t solve anything and Boehner may have just flat out given up.

In short, the GOP may have just imploded. My guess is the Speaker’s office gets something out before the morning news cycle gets cranking, when talking heads start asking this guy or that gal what they think of Boehner’s crazy conference request. That is not a question and answer session you as the speaker or as a GOP strategist want being passed around on live TV.


  1. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    In short, the GOP may have just imploded.

    The GOP or just Boehner? If Boehner has lost it then can he be replaced and if so by who?

  2. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    As of a few minutes ago the uS is technically shutdown.

    I thought that happened on midnight 1st October US and it isn’t there yet by your clock? Does it all go by Washington time then or is it different per time zone per state?

    Seems they couldn’t avoid it anyhow. Damn.

  3. cottonnero says

    Or maybe it’s just an appeal to low-information voters: “Oh, he wants a conference, that must mean that the GOP is trying to work toward an agreement.”

  4. says

    I think that Boehner won this round. In case you disagree, consider what was on the bargaining table for each side to have won, and then compare it with what each side will win if the shutdown ends with a clean CR as Reid last offered to the House passing.

    The call for conference is a gimmick, distracts people from the shutdown just a tad. Enough for Hannity to yell “Look, the Democrats turned down an offer to negotiate in good faith, THEY SHUT DOWN GOVERNMENT!”

  5. Robert B. says

    Yeah, it reads to me like a request designed to be refused. Seeing why it’s a completely ridiculous proposal requires a little context and background knowledge on how congress works (context I didn’t have until I read your post, actually) and context is very easy to remove from political ads. “The Democrats refused to attend a conference about the budget, and then the government shut down” is technically true and sounds bad, that’s all he wanted. I don’t think Boehner really wanted a shutdown, but since he’s stuck with a bad strategy he probably figures he might as well wring it for all the ephemeral public-opinion boosts he can get out of it.

    As far as I can tell, the Republicans are playing entirely to the audience. Making the government actually do things isn’t on their tactical radar – even if they somehow manage to pass the bill they want, there’s no way Obama’s ever going to sign it. That’s not the world they’re in. A lot of them probably think they can win, because blithely assuming victory is practically an official plank in the Republican platform. They’re not actually strategizing toward that goal, though, they’re picking the course of action that looks best to their base and assuming it will work if they believe really hard and clap their hands. To analyze their actions, don’t think “will it work?” think “what will the headline/soundbite be?”

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