Political Animal


July 12, 2011 1:10 PM Boehner: avoidable economic crash isn’t my problem

By Steve Benen

The correlation is probably not a coincidence: the more House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) loses control of his caucus, the more he loses his cool.

Burned by the fact that their prescription for reducing the deficit and increasing the national borrowing limit either can’t pass in Congress or doesn’t cut spending enough to warrant, in their minds, a significant debt ceiling hike, House Republicans returned to the Capitol Tuesday to ratchet up their demands, and shirk responsibility for avoiding default.

“Where’s the President’s plan?” asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) at a press stakeout after a GOP caucus meeting. “When’s he going to lay his cards on the table? This debt limit increase is his problem.”

Just so we’re clear, in three weeks, the United States will exhaust its ability to pay its bills. The economy will deteriorate and millions of Americans will suffer. John Boehner knows all of this — he’s never even tried to deny the severity of the consequences — and has the ability to prevent it. Indeed, by most measures, he has a legal obligation to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.

But as of today, with the crisis quickly approaching, the Speaker of the House, one of the most powerful officeholders in our system of government, has decided this isn’t his “problem.”

Remember, Republicans still believe they have the high ground on patriotism.

Also note the trajectory of Boehner’s descent into madness. Here’s Boehner in November 2010:

“I’ve made it pretty clear to [my caucus] that as we get into next year, it’s pretty clear that Congress is going to have to deal with [the debt limit]. We’re going to have to deal with it as adults. Whether we like it or not, the federal government has obligations and we have obligations on our part.”

And here’s Boehner in December 2010:

“We’ll have to find a way to help educate members and help people understand the serious problem that would exist if we didn’t do it.”

Here’s Boehner in January 2011:

“[A debt-ceiling default] would be a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy. I don’t think it’s a question that’s even on the table.”

And in case this wasn’t enough, Greg Sargent reminds us that as recently as mid-May, Boehner conceded on national television that raising the debt limit is the “obligation” of both parties, it’s “necessary” for policy reasons, and failure to do so risks “the end of our economy.”

Yet, despite all of this, the Speaker now believes this crisis isn’t his “problem.”

He knows better. We know he knows better. And if the political establishment lets him get away with this garbage, it will only encourage more of this criminal stupidity until our economy crashes in 21 days.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • bignose on July 12, 2011 1:16 PM:

    Really? Cool.

    Here's the plan:

    Step 1: Obama raises the debt limit without conditions.
    Step 2: The collective head of the GOP explodes.
    Step 3: Laughter.

  • Rick Taylor on July 12, 2011 1:20 PM:

    Boehner is absolutely right. When is Obama going to propose a debt ceiling bill in the house, pass it, and hand it on to the senate to pass so he can sign it?

    For the sarcasm impaired, that was sarcasm. Before this all started, I fully expected Republicans to pass a bill raising the debt ceiling coupled with deep cuts and then go on to dare the senate and the president to kill it. But I gave them to much credit. They're not even willing to propose a bill, much less pass it, until the President preemptively gives into all their demands. Personally I think Obama made a mistake entering negotiations with him; it's the Republicans responsibility to propose legislation in the house and to pass it, not his.

  • T-Rex on July 12, 2011 1:21 PM:

    Bignose, I think Obama will have to use his "14th amendment remedies" and let the Republicans scream about impeachment all they want. Let's just hope that contrary to what we'd expect from his record so far he's got the spine to do it. Mr. Obama, someone needs to deliver a "message to Garcia," and it's up to you to do it!

  • c u n d gulag on July 12, 2011 1:22 PM:

    “Where’s the President’s plan?” asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) at a press stakeout after a GOP caucus meeting. “When’s he going to lay his cards on the table? This debt limit increase is his problem.”

    Uhm, drinking too much there, Boner?

    Have you forgotten the $4 Trillion deal the President put on the table that YOU walked away from ?

    You can't keep saying where's 'So-and-so's' plan when they've already put it out there.

    I'm still waiting, Speaker Boner, for YOUR JOBS PLAN!!!

    And it's been 2+ years that people have been waiting for the HEALTH CARE PLAN you're going to replace the ACA with.

    Oh, wait, WTF what WAS I thinking?

    _____________ (fill in the blank) problem is because both sides _________________________ (fill in the blank), as the MSM will tell us.

    Which quickly degenrates to "It's ALL the Democrats fault!!!"

  • You Don't Say on July 12, 2011 1:23 PM:

    Boehner looks more and more cowardly by the hour.

  • zandru on July 12, 2011 1:24 PM:

    Besides Mr. Benen (and thanks!), the only news outlet which will show the descent of Rep. Boner's debt limit positions will be The Daily Show.

    How about we take it upon ourselves to email around this posting? Start getting out the word how full of c*** the Republicans are, and how they wouldn't know "good faith" or "negotiations" if it bit them in their @$$es.

    The media is broke. We've got to spread the news ourselves.

    And there's Captcha with an appropriately populist "peoples turterr". Don't just sit there - turterr!

  • mellowjohn on July 12, 2011 1:25 PM:

    hey, john? for the foreseeable future? when cantor offers to shake hands, be sure to check what's in his other hand.

    p.s. sunday nite one of the talking heads on the local abc (chicago) news actually slipped up and called him "boner." had to smile.

    oh c'mon benen. now the hated captcha has JAPANESE characters i'm supposed to type?

  • walt on July 12, 2011 1:30 PM:

    Boehner's credibility, such as it is, involves standing before cameras and issuing bombastic demands in discrete sound-bites. Aside from that, he's dead man walking. Eric Cantor has outfoxed him, Obama has outplayed him, and the right-wing media machinery is getting tired of him. They want their zealots to have maniacal gleams in their eyes, not red from too many highballs.

  • Jilli on July 12, 2011 1:32 PM:

    Not his problem? I thought he and the other clowns in congress were elected to address the nations issues. He's the leader - the number 3 man - and he throws his hands up and walks away? Leadership is more than handing out checks from lobbyists and schmoozing in bars...guess boehners finding that out the hard way. It was so much easier standing on the sidelines snicker and lobbing spitballs. Put on your big boy panties John and buck up!

  • Ron Byers on July 12, 2011 1:36 PM:

    Boner's comments when combined with McConnell's this morning indicates the Republicans are trying hard to blame the President for the Debt Ceiling impass. After the President's comments yesterday it is pretty clear the Republicans feel the need to shift responsiblity for the coming destruction of the American economy.

    Unless the AP and the other Republican mouth pieces are totally unopposed I don't think they are going to be successful. If the world economy tanks a lot of people in Washington are going to lose their jobs. Most of them will be Republicans.

  • Stranger on July 12, 2011 1:37 PM:

    Obama just upped the ante - TPM has video of him saying that if the deal doesn't get done, all manner of monthly checks - SS, veterans, pretty much any payments to private citizens - may not go out.

    Boehner thinks he's been under pressure to this point? Wait till this video goes viral (and it will).

  • bob h on July 12, 2011 1:38 PM:

    I would be wary of any deal with the Republicans in which they promise to take up tax "reform" at a later date that will bring in more revenue. The GOP is no more trustworthy than the Pakistani ISI, for example, and their promises are worth nothing.

    I really feel for you, Steve, every day, all day long having to absorb the Republican lies and infantilism. It would drive me nuts.

  • Marko on July 12, 2011 1:39 PM:

    Obama has already laid out LOTS of plans. His first was his request for a clean bill to raise the debt limit.

    But the Republicans didn't like that, so Obama gave them three different plans with varying degrees of long-term debt reduction.

    But the Republicans didn't like any of those plans, either. So it seems to me it is not incumbent on the president to provide another plan the house republicans won't like. It's their responsibility to create and pass a bill to raise the debt limit. But they're just too afraid to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to an actual vote.

  • delNorte on July 12, 2011 1:47 PM:

    Didn't Cantor start this by walking out and washing his hands of any deal, saying it was up to the President and Boehner to sit down and work something out (re: taxes)? Now Boehner seems to be taking a hike and leaving it all in the President's lap.

    If true, then the only options are default, or the "14th Amendment Remedy."

    Maybe that's what the Republicans really want - Obama to act alone on this and fix it by decree - the debt limit would get raised, but without their vote, and they'd start the "presidential overreach" and impeachment wheels spinning.

  • bigtuna on July 12, 2011 1:55 PM:

    Hey Boner. here is a plan.

    bring a clean bill. you get 193 democratic votes.

    Find 25 people in your own god damn party who still has a soul. Tell them to vote for the bill.

    Oh, wait. That would take ... what is is??? Ohe, yeah. Leadership. A sense of moral duty for country over party.

    silly me.

  • Josef K on July 12, 2011 1:58 PM:

    Senator McConnell was on the Senate floor recently and, speaking on the record (I believe), stated:

    After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is probably unattainable.

    The only way to interpret this is that the Republicans have decided to let the debt ceiling stand at its current level and stop any effort to raise it. In short, they're going to let the country head into actual default, the consequences of which are unknown (although those who know monetary policy are reportedly getting quite scared at the prospect).

    With Boehner saying "its not my problem", I'm not reconciled to the likelihood that the markets will panic within the next couple weeks (if not sooner) and the bond market specifically will go off the rails. Given I work in Manhattan just a few blocks up from Wall Street itself, I expect to hear a lot of chaos breaking out down there.

  • rob on July 12, 2011 1:59 PM:

    "Criminal stupidity" is an under statement (the words "wanton" and "aggravated could be added), but it will do.

    The scene from "Rebel Without A Cause" keeps running through my mind - where the reckless adolescents dare each other to jump first as they race the car for the cliff, James Deanfinally jumps but the other kid's coat gets caught on the door latch and he goes over the cliff.

    The moral is bad shit happens when you act stupid boys and girls.

  • DRF on July 12, 2011 2:02 PM:

    "This debt limit increase is his problem."

    What an incredible, and incredibly stupid, thing for Boehner to say. It's also incredibly callous. No, it's going to be everyone's problem pretty soon, and I hope the Democrats put this statement in every advertisement they run for the 2012 campaign.

  • Kathryn on July 12, 2011 2:03 PM:

    Ron Byers touched on McConnell's statement on the Senate floor but what he said deserves to be submitted to this blog. "I have little doubt that as long as this President is in the Oval Office, a real solution is unattainable", so sayeth the Senator from Kentucky. I called McConnell's office to inquire if he has sworn to support and defend the Constitution and was told that he had done so. I believe his statement does not support or defend the Constitution of the United States and is, in fact, treasonous. What will it take to wake up the media and too many voters? Is he calling for the removal from office of the elected President of the United States, sounds like it to me.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 12, 2011 2:11 PM:

    Maybe Obama should just say to the Tea-publicans: "You're on your own. You and the Senate work it out, and I'll sign what you come up with."

    But seriously, I've thought for a long time the Banana Republicans were intent on taking the country into default (and I've been pilloried for it). This might be their last chance to trash what has been built up over the last 80 years, and they're playing for keeps.

  • me on July 12, 2011 2:11 PM:

    as jared bernstein points out, the budget bill boehner shepherded through the house this spring necessitates the raising of the debt ceiling; whether the house leader cares to admit it or not, it is *his* problem.

  • me on July 12, 2011 2:15 PM:

    now would probably be a good time for someone to compile all those 'no debt ceiling hike' quotes from tea party nincompoops on capitol hill during the winter months.

  • st john on July 12, 2011 2:32 PM:

    Were I to threaten the POTUS or any other high ranking Federal official, I could be assured of a visit by the SS or some other authoritarian agency, and probably arrest.
    A Sitting or Standing or Lying member of Congress threatens the well being of tens of millions of U.S. citizens and including the POTUS and high ranking Federal officials makes his unveiled threats and walks away. I have heard the word TREASON on several threads, but no one with a credible voice is speaking it out loud. The Global economy is at risk and all we hear are petty arguments back and forth. I am waiting for the International outrage to take hold. We have heard from a couple of other countries, but the decibel level is still within civil limits.

    "I dare call it TREASON!"

  • bdop4 on July 12, 2011 2:42 PM:

    Dems are waiting for everyone to figure this out, but they will need to spell it out in blunt terms so the MSM can't spin it and people can figure it out.

    Obama is working with congressional pubs as a courtesy. He is not required to propose a deal.

    It is their responsibility.

  • kevo on July 12, 2011 2:51 PM:

    Boehner has most certainly become a real sorry excuse of a human being in a most accelerated fashion these past few weeks! McConnell was already too sorry to save as a humane creature!

    Craven, hollow men
    projecting their petard
    upon us all!

    Theirs will truly be
    a hellish consequence
    and putrid result!

    Too bad too many
    decent Americans
    will suffer too much!

    Boehner, McConnell, Tea Partyers
    demise is what they want from us
    and they make no disguise!

    I'm so tired of their lies! -Kevo

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 12, 2011 3:24 PM:

    This is getting worse. McConnell is going to offer mini-measures throughout the election campaign and dare Obama to veto it. Check this out:


  • Jimmy on July 12, 2011 3:45 PM:

    No checks will stop being mailed, no service members will go unpaid and America's bills will continue to get paid.
    Raising the debt only allows for more spending on more government.
    This article is rife with outright lies.
    You people just don't get it ... and probably never will.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on July 12, 2011 3:52 PM:

    I'm with Jimmy: let's all post a series of sentences none of which are true. Way to go, Jimmy!

  • zeitgeist on July 12, 2011 4:15 PM:

    have there been any approval polls of Boehner in his Ohio district lately?

  • rob on July 12, 2011 4:29 PM:


    Let me say this as emphatically as possibele: it is ignorant arrogant assholes like you, voting for very pathetic stupid little people like Boehner and his ilk, that are driving this country over the cliff. You are dead wrong and we are, unfotunately, all going to suffer for your ignorance.

  • Big Z on July 12, 2011 5:53 PM:

    Where was the Republican outrage when W was in office ans spending like there was no tomorrow? They raised the debt limit 7 times without batting an eye. Well, it's tomorrow and they have to pay the piper. They started 2 wars without paying for them; created 'No Child Left Behind' without funding it; gave tax breaks to corporations that shipped our jobs overseas...
    "It's not my fault." Sounds like Herbert Hoover all over again. Man up, Boehner; take responsibility and fix it!

  • Big Z on July 12, 2011 6:01 PM:

    BTW Jimmy -

    Raising the debt limit is about paying our current debts, not about future spending. I know that you and your Wall Street buddies are used to us taxpayers bailing you out; but W isn't in office anymore. us liberals are used to paying our bills when they come due, not shifting responsibility to someone else.

  • nospin on July 12, 2011 6:33 PM:

    Big Z said "Raising the debt limit is about paying our current debts, not about future spending."

    That can't be said enough BZ. I think folks believe this is somehow PO's bill. It isn't. This is about debts incurred under the previous administration and the bill is due. The responsible thing to do is to pay the debt.

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