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March 10, 2013 1:52 PM John Boehner Has the Hardest Job in Washington

By Ryan Cooper

My estimation of John Boehner has increased quite a bit of late, as I’ve come to appreciate the extreme difficulty of dealing with his own unruly caucus, and the conservative media and think tanks egging them on. Dig what happened during the storm last Wednesday:

House Republican leaders have a new problem. They can’t count on their members to support them on procedural votes.
Sixteen Republicans defected Wednesday in a vote on the rule governing consideration of a government-funding bill meant to prevent a government shutdown. The defections could have caused the rule to fail since most Democrats voted also voted against it…

Why would they do this? Because the leadership won’t let them stick in pointless, doomed-to-fail amendments defunding Obamacare:

Worse, from a leadership perspective, is that some Republicans say they plan on doing it again if they feel leaders are limiting them from offering controversial amendments on the floor…
Several conservatives switched their positions on the rule under pressure from interest groups that on Wednesday morning announced they intended to score votes on the rule.
Freedom Works, for example, was livid that GOP leaders refused to allow a floor vote on an amendment to defund the implementation of President Obama’s healthcare law.

This crop of House Republicans has about crippled the power of the Speakership. They have little sense of legislative tactics, let alone strategy—in fact, they seem barely interested in legislating at all. They don’t seem to care about committee assignments, they definitely aren’t interested in home-district pork, and with the new crop of SuperPACs (and loopy extremist billionaires) dumping tsunamis of money into politics, the leadership has little sway over campaign funds. In my understanding control over these things is what gave the Speakers of ages past their power, and without them it makes the caucus almost impossible to control.

This seems to be shifting the center of power in the House to the left, as Boehner has been forced to repeatedly seek Democratic support to pass compromise bills—who are then are in a position to extract concessions due to superior discipline. It’s a reminder that ideology isn’t everything—that tactics and mercenary considerations do matter.

In any case it’s quite the ironic result with what is still about the most conservative Republican caucus in history.

Ryan Cooper is a National Correspondent at The Week, and a former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @ryanlcooper

Comments

  • brent on March 10, 2013 2:53 PM:

    My estimation of John Boehner has increased quite a bit of late, as I’ve come to appreciate the extreme difficulty of dealing with his own unruly caucus,

    I certainly agree that Boehner is in a tough spot but its not as if he has covered himself in glory in the midst of all this. He has done little to discourage the radical nature of this caucus and in fact, publicly mirrors their rhetoric pretty consistently.

  • mudwall jackson on March 10, 2013 3:01 PM:

    they aren't conservative. they're plain, old-fashioned crazy. they're like an animal trying to gnaw off its leg to escape a trap — when it's actually free.

  • Sean Scallon on March 10, 2013 3:19 PM:

    I wonder if Boehner is secure enough in his district to run a coalition speakership in the House with the Democrats and the establishment GOPers. Then Eric Cantor can be minority leader like he wants to be.

  • jkl; on March 10, 2013 3:23 PM:

    Ryan--with elegance of prose--notes "This seems to be shifting the center of power in the House to the left, as Boehner has been forced to repeatedly seek Democratic support to pass compromise bills..."

    And I say, well yeah--this mix of intransigent, beholdened republican tea partiers & egocentrics passing themselves off as policy wonks, & freshmen legislators not respecting systems (as today with Wisconsin's Ron Johnson's crappy, embarassingly deceitful effort on Meet the Press to discredit the president's obviously successful work in capturing many terrorists--Johnson absurdly/dumbly remarks the president "only got one guy just recently" which is total bull--so the representative of the day, Ron Johnson, was both schooled and ridiculed by the tv panel today for that lie. I think I also heard gasps. One again, Republicans look like fools.
    You have Cantor the Shakespearean Lurker with that young and smug look of opportunism. Exhibitionist showboating by Rand Paul on citizens rights, when his own record is so traceably unacceptable on civil rights & and womens' issues, with extreme, scary, ominous radicalism for drowning government to a big nothing. Seniors, the disabled, the poor, the ill--take notice. Your advocates certainly will.
    And Rand Paul has some interviews over the years that are very telling.

    And Boehner isn't cool--he's wound tight, he's bitter and ruined. I know the type--issues with managing anger and emotions, willing to write off the effort at hand, impulsively speak out, then and sulk, and hang out elsewhere. Giving up, essentially, looking like he can't manage.
    Unlike Nancy Pelosi, who COULD manage. The difference is surreal. And Boehner has bad press from Mr. Ney from Ohio calling him out on maladaptive behaviors. Plus a book naming names, such as Boehner.
    As a Democrat, I say of course Boehner must work to seek compromise. That Republican House is a haven of great shame. They prove they are unwilling and unable to govern. It is a sick spectacle on display.

    We posted an interview where Rand Paul talked endlessly with a guy hosting a conspiracy website that is shockingly paranoid, with happy ties to Alex Jones Infowars and lots of tinfoil beliefs. I hope people examine this, as Rand has revealed his extremism.

    http://jaysanalysis.com/2011/10/24/flashback-prophetic-rand-paul-message-globalism-new-world-order-2009/

  • Mark_NC on March 10, 2013 4:10 PM:

    It's a good thing that Republicans are incapable of learning. If they were capable, they might elect people less crazy and dedicated enough to do even more damage.

    Fortunately, there are enough buffoons to limit some of the damage and keep us entertained watching them scream and flail wildly.

  • Jack Lindahl on March 10, 2013 5:08 PM:

    they aren't conservative. they're plain, old-fashioned crazy.

    Yep. Our vaunted press corps keeps referring to the new Republican Party as ultra-conservative, when in fact it's just finge-looney. I'm a conservative. I like laws. I like the Constitution. I like process. These guys are the fringe. They're not conservatives at all. So let's stop calling them conservative.

  • exlibra on March 10, 2013 6:43 PM:

    The Tea Potties are potty, and no mistake. That's what wearing lead-foil hats on a daily basis will do to you.

  • Frank Wilhoit on March 10, 2013 7:33 PM:

    @Jack Lindahl: Some conservatives do like laws, and I take your word that you are among them, but I surmise that your fondeness for them may not be a conservative fondness.

    If you want the laws to bind everyone and protect everyone, rather than being used to create "in" groups and "out" groups, then you are *not* a conservative and there is no time or place in which you could have been called one. The King can do no wrong: it is only a question of who is the King. Today, the King is an in group, a faction that is protected by the law but not bound by it. This is the sole essence of conservatism and always has been. It contains nothing else, except topical inessentials that vary from one historical context to another.

  • jhm on March 11, 2013 6:18 AM:

    It's a situation such as the GOP conference finds itself in that make me hugely skeptical of beneficial effects purportedly resulting from term limits.

  • Anonymous on March 11, 2013 9:31 AM:

    This crop of House Republicans has about crippled the power of the Speakership. They have little sense of legislative tactics, let alone strategy—in fact, they seem barely interested in legislating at all.

    "Barely interested in legislating at all" hardly describes the disdain the Teahad has for governing. Were it not for their idolatry of the Founding Fathers and their Constitution, the best descriptor for the Teahad would be anarchist: their insistence that "government (big and small) is the problem" is driving tactics intended to disrupt the normal functioning of Washington and of the various states and smaller jurisdictions where they have significant presence. There is no strategy beyond crippling the public sector, which (in their minds) is illegitimate, unConstitutional and otherwise wrong.

    In the last few Congresses, there's also a heaping helping of TABMITWH mixed into the brew, which isn't helping matters.

    In an earlier time, this might have been called treason by those who still believed a functional government was necessary to the peace, order and prosperity of the US. Now, it seems, it's merely described as a hindrance to governing by those who believe government has any function at all, and legitimate practice to those who seek their strange and toxic brand of Originalism in their quest to dismantle the public sector altogether.