Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 30, 2011

BOEHNER EYES BLUE DOGS FOR BUDGET DEAL.... House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has struggled for several weeks with an arithmetical problem. He could strike a budget deal that would make his own extremely conservative caucus happy, or he could strike a deal that the Senate and White House would find acceptable.

But he couldn't do both. If the Speaker went with the former, and stuck to his guns on a right-wing plan that the American mainstream would find offensive, the base would be happy but a government shutdown would be unavoidable. If Boehner went with the latter, he'd lose much of his own caucus, and would (again) need House Democrats to finalize a deal.

As of yesterday, Paul Kane reports that the Speaker is at least open to Door #2.

Having difficulty finding consensus within their own ranks, House Republican leaders have begun courting moderate Democrats on several key fiscal issues, including a deal to avoid a government shutdown at the end of next week.

The basic outline would involve more than $30 billion in cuts for the 2011 spending package, well short of the $61 billion initially demanded by freshman Republicans and other conservatives, according to senior aides in both parties. Such a deal probably would be acceptable to Senate leaders and President Obama as long as the House didn't impose funding restrictions on certain social and regulatory programs supported by Democrats, Senate and administration aides said.

The fact that Republican leaders have initiated talks with some Democrats shows some division within House Republicans just two months after taking over the House.

Ya think?

Ideally, John Boehner would prefer to be a strong House Speaker with resilient credibility among his own members. He could negotiate with Democrats, go to his caucus and assure them he reached the best possible deal, and they'd believe him and vote accordingly.

But that's not the case. Boehner is a weak Speaker, leading a caucus that doesn't necessarily trust him, dominated by freshmen who don't really know him and owe no allegiance to him. The Speaker could work something out with the Senate and White House, explain to House Republicans it's the best deal possible under the circumstances, only to hear from his own members, "No, you're wrong, this isn't good enough."

Which is where "centrist" and Blue Dog Democrats come into the picture. Boehner figures he might be able to thread the needle, crafting a deal the Senate and White House can live with, and get to 218 in the House with a coalition of center-right Dems and sane Republicans.

That would prevent a shutdown and lay the groundwork for future talks. It would also cause widespread apoplexy among conservative activists and the GOP's Tea Party base, and perhaps even put Boehner's role as Speaker in jeopardy.

Indeed, perhaps the only development yesterday that was as interesting as outreach to the Blue Dog Dems was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) noticeably putting some distance between his budget approach and Boehner's. In fact, Cantor suggested he isn't even in the loop when it comes to where things stand, telling reporters, "There is a difference in my knowledge base."

Insert joke here.

If or when push comes to shove, and Boehner feels the need to strike a deal that the hysterical wing of his party won't like, will Cantor have the Speaker's back or will Cantor stab the Speaker in the back?

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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I go with stabbed in the back. It is the traditionally favored theory of conservatives,

Posted by: anon on March 30, 2011 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

No question about it, Cantor is power crazy and will stab Boehner in the back all the time with that sickening grin on his face.
I do not care for Boehner, but cannot stand Cantor, have long tried to figure out who he reminds me of. Cannot think, but know it is someone evil - perhaps from an old silent movie.

Posted by: j on March 30, 2011 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Just one look at Boehner makes you appreciate how great a Speaker Nancy Pelosi was.

Boehner missed his true calling.

He should have been a Greeter at a Funeral Home.

There, he could cry on cue, tell a few jokes, swill down some booze, and practice his putting at the cemetary.

Instead, he's trying line his sorry-ass group up so that all of the knuckles are being dragged in the same direction.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 30, 2011 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

No Democrat should be supporting any reductions in domestic discretionary spending at this time if they give a rat's ass about jobs. Domestic discretionary spending is not the cause of the deficit. Hasn't been for ages. It is out of control military spending, out of control medical expenses and the Bush tax cuts. Period. There is no need, none to cut non-defense discretionary spending particularly at this time when any such cuts will necessarily result in a reduction in jobs. Period. And the democratic party, if we truly had a democratic party worthy of the name would never sign off on such a policy under these conditions when the people the broad majority of the population according to every opinion poll is against this course of action.

But instead, we have a bunch of pansy ass motherfuckers who have already sceded the debate to the wrong side. The side that is on the wrong side of public opinion. Why is that? Corruption, plain and simple. The system is rigged and everyone with an IQ above 13 can see it at this point. The press is bought and paid for. The Supreme Court is captured. The whole stinking system is rotten to core. THere is no democracy left. It is a hollow shell. An empty reality show. How fitting that Donald Trump is now being touted as a contender for President.

Posted by: SW on March 30, 2011 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

If they were serious, they wouldn't be looking to the Blue Dogs. They'd go to the left wing of the party, and pick out some idiotic defense spending.

It irks me no end that that they've been able to turn bad, partisan proposals into deficit reduction issues. Not merely bad, but like WIC and PP, proposals that actually increase spending in the medium term.

Posted by: jayackroyd on March 30, 2011 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

The TPers are not a party. They are a movement.

The Progressives are not a party. They are a movement.

Wouldn't it be great if the Progressives had as much power in the Democratic Party as the TPers have in the RepuG Party?

Posted by: berttheclock on March 30, 2011 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Forging fluid arrangements between various groups regardless of party is the Congress used to work. Newt introduced rigid European style party discipline. If we aren't careful Boehner will prove to be a very effective Speaker indeed.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 30, 2011 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

I suggest we stop calling them BLUE Dog Democrats.

There's nothing "blue" about them.

How about RED Dog Democrats?

Or, PINK Democrats.

Or, PINK Republicans.

Or, just Republicans - even if they don't want to go by that label.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 30, 2011 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

I had to write a letter to NPR this morning and now I run into it here. "Moderate Democrat" is an editorial term, not a reportorial term. It is highly prejudicial, implying at the least the rest of the Democrats are immoderate and most likely radical.

The Blue Dogs are not "moderate" they are conservative (self described). If Kane, NPR and the rest mean Blue Dogs, say Blue Dogs or conservative. Moderate is just an inappropriate word for any reporter to be using in this situation.

And screw the Blue Dogs.

Posted by: martin on March 30, 2011 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

SW @ 8:44 AM sums up the situation quite nicely.

And the 'situation' will continue, until a "People's Party" emerges.

Posted by: DAY on March 30, 2011 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

I call 'em Business Dogs, because that's what they are. It's not like they vote with the GOP on God, guns, and gays, then vote Dem on pocketbook issues.

They are willing corporate pawns. End of story.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 30, 2011 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

SW: The whole stinking system is rotten to core.

Congratulations on completing PS101. Now what?

Posted by: chi res on March 30, 2011 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

There isn't a dark hole any polecat would traverse at any given moment - especially if a meal surely rests inside!

Yes, I'll go there - the weaselly Cantor may enter that hole armed with sharp teeth and a Charley Sheen ambition of winning! And, we maybe spewing Speaker Cantor from our lips should Speaker Boehner try to make a sane move to keep our government up and running.

The Ides of March has already passed, but April 15 is another date Cantor could coordinate as his day of ascendancy!

Cantor, Cassius, gotta a certain ring to it! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 30, 2011 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Boner's problem, and in a related way the Democrats problem is not this continuing res budget. It is next years budget, the one the TeaParty wing of Republicans want to cut 100 billion from. The one where the TeaParty wing expects to completely kill Health Reform and any other program enacted by Obama so far. What we are seeing now is nothing compared to what we'll see then. And remember, it all has to get signed by Obama, who can veto anything he doesn't like, even if the Senate somehow passes it.

Posted by: T2 on March 30, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

So, how is that "rigid European style party discipline" holding up in Baden-Wurtemburg?

The CDU has lost their very long hold due to a rise in the Green Party which is forming a coalition with the SDU. Ach, B-W, home of the Schwaebish, spaetzle, Goethe and cuckoo clocks.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 30, 2011 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Here's the big problem - from OUR side - with a thread-the-needle 'compromise.'

1) The compromise itself sucks, giving away far too much. But you knew that already.

2) After the compromise is reached on the 2011 budget, the next thing coming up is raising the debt limit. How does that play out, after some bullshit compromise?

First, the teabaggers will be out for blood, having been denied their government shutdown over the budget. The message from the GOP base, loud and clear, will be that they don't want the debt limit raised at all - and if the quisling GOP leadership insists on doing so, they'd better extract a HUGE pound of flesh from the Dems.

Second, there's really no room for anyone with an ounce of responsibility to fight over the debt limit. That means Obama's backed into a corner on this one - he can't just say "bring it on" if the GOP wants a fight over the debt limit: he really has to cave.

So they'll get everything in the battle over the debt limit that they didn't get in the battle over the 2011 budget. And nobody says they even have to agree to a particularly sizable increase of the debt limit: they could raise it just enough to let the government operate for another few months, then fight the whole battle again.

This is why the only winning strategy was to welcome a fight over the shutdown, and make the teabaggers regret that they'd ever picked that fight, so that they'd lose their appetite for subsequent fights, especially the fight over the debt limit.

Too f'ing late for that, I'm afraid.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 30, 2011 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner is a weak Speaker, leading a caucus that doesn't necessarily trust him, dominated by freshman who don't really know him and owe no allegiance to him.

Makes you see just what a good Speaker Pelosi was.

Hoyer was no more loyal than Cantor, but Pelosi had her shyt together.

Posted by: rikyrah on March 30, 2011 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Heath Shuler is a nasty piece of work. Too bad that fucker didn't loose his seat last year. They may as well have a real Republican in that district.

Posted by: SW on March 30, 2011 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Cantor: "There is a difference in my knowledge base." No sh!t Sherlock.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on March 30, 2011 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

What will happen on the debt ceiling is the Tea Party mad men and women will be kicked to the curb by the same group that is emerging in these CR battles. The real fight will be over the 2012 budget.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 30, 2011 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

I hate to see these cuts, but if the compromise results in an internecine Republican war, it may prove worth it in the long run. Remember, last time this happened, in 1995-96, the Republican candidates for President weren't nearly as conservative nor as prone to pandering as the present bunch are. This will play out not only in Congress, but in the early skirmishing for the nomination. You know there will be pressure for all of them to back the T wing of the party on this.

Posted by: John Dillinger on March 30, 2011 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

So, I suppose Cantor doesn't owe Boehner anything... Et tu, Eric?

Posted by: MattF on March 30, 2011 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

2) After the compromise is reached on the 2011 budget, the next thing coming up is raising the debt limit. How does that play out, after some bullshit compromise?

Wouldn't it be nice if Senate democrats demanded that the debt ceiling issue be taken in conjunction with a spending bill. I mean, it's not like they're not completely f***ing related. In a sane world, wouldn't it actually makes more sense to take up a vote to raise the ceiling before passing a budget that will inevitably break the damn ceiling?

Posted by: AndThenThere'sThat on March 30, 2011 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Low-Tech Cyclist at 9:15 has a very good point. We have to have the shutdown now. By the end of the shutdown, the Debt Ceiling will be due and must be included in the compromise.

After last weekend when the Rethugs blindsided the negotiations by changing the basis of the cuts, the Administration, Senate and House minority appeared to shift to accepting the inevitable shutdown.

The offer of $30 Billion at exactly half the Rethug total appears to be the compromise Dems will make their line in the fight. Splitting the difference sounds very reasonable to swing voters and simple minded media types.

A good tactic for the shutdown would be to cut ESSENTIAL services about what they would be under the Rethug budget and thumpet that if the Rethugs prevail, this is the future level of service.

Rethug governors and legislatures have laid the ground work for a broad revulsion against the Teabaggers at all levels, much sooner than anyone expected.

The odd thing is that at the end Boner may look like a better speaker than he is, assuming "lean and hunger" Gaius Cassius Cantor does not unseat him. The Democrats may have to vote for Boner, which insures Boner is gone in 2013.

Posted by: OKDem on March 30, 2011 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Boehner doesn't know a coup when he sees one. The second any compromise with any Democrats, Blue Dog or otherwise, becomes public, the Orange Man is toast. Cantor becomes Speaker and they get the shutdown they want. The Democrats have no role to play in the this. Let's hope they've realized a shutdown is inevitable and have a PR campaign to deal with it.

Posted by: dalloway on March 30, 2011 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, lest I forget:


Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 30, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Combining "sane" Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats doesn't get close to a majority.

Posted by: Th on March 30, 2011 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Eric Cantor: "There is a difference in my knowledge base."

Insert joke here:

Here's mine; "However, Boehner and I are both carrying negative balances."

Posted by: KevinMc on March 30, 2011 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK



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