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October 07, 2013 11:10 AM Boehner’s Delusion

By Ed Kilgore

If you want a good big-picture take on the fiscal crisis from a GOP point-of-view, check out Byron York’s latest column, which channels an unnamed House Republican’s argument that the GOP “stumbled into” a fight over Obamacare much as Confederate troops stumbled into a war-defining battle at Gettysburg.

What’s most interesting isn’t the now-widespread premise that congressional Republicans got rolled by the Defund Obamacare movement (a good New York Times piece on the origins and financing of that movement appeared over the weekend, in case you missed it), but instead the assumption that Democrats would help the Orange Man out of his dilemma:

[T]he lawmaker [York’s anonymous House source] thought Senate Democrats, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, would make some sort of concession on a lesser aspect of Obamacare. “I do think, though, when Boehner sent over delay and [repeal of the] medical device tax, I think he thought he’d probably get back medical device, and that would have probably been enough right there,” the congressman said. But Reid and the Democrats steadfastly refused to consider any change to Obamacare, surprising Republicans again. “When [Boehner] didn’t get medical device, I think he did something he didn’t want to do, which was send over the member health care [the Vitter amendment barring Congress from receiving special subsidies on the Obamacare exchanges]. And I think he did that largely because he thought [Democrats] were trying to jam him.” When Boehner lowered his demands to include a delay for just the individual mandate — not for all of Obamacare — Republicans thought Democrats would be open to that more modest proposal.
“Instead, it’s no, we’re not going to negotiate, we’re not going to negotiate, we’re not going to negotiate,” the lawmaker said. “Which means effectively you’re going to try to humiliate the Speaker in front of his conference. And how effective a negotiating partner do you think he’ll be then? You’re putting the guy in a position where he’s got nothing to lose, because you’re not giving him anything to win.”

The normally acute York somehow doesn’t note the irony of expecting people who are refusing to negotiate as a matter of principle to worry about Boehner’s strength as a negotiator—and even about his easily bruised feelings.

Boehner has put himself into a position where the only way Democrats can spare him “humiliation” is to humiliate the president and give Republicans a victory that will vindicate the fanaticism of the Tea Folk. Having blundered into “Gettysburg,” Boehner is the one who needs to retreat, and pronto.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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