Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Q Day 2: Whither Boehner?

Rule 22 asks:
Is the payroll tax debacle Boehner's government shutdown moment?
And Matt Glassman:
Conditional on the GOP holding the House in the 2012 election, what is the probability that Boehner is not Speaker come January 2013?
Before I get to that: I hope you all know you should be reading Rule 22 and Matt Glassman.

As far as John Boehner...I guess I don't really think that it's analogous to Newt's role in the 1995-1996 shutdown. For one thing, there's no shutdown! Yes, House Republicans are taking (yet another) hit on this one, but the odds that this becomes as visible as the 1995-1996 shutdown are slim, even if they really don't resolve it in time.

I also don't get the sense -- pending, of course, more reporting (or at least for me, getting caught up on what's been reported in the last few days) -- that rank-and-file Members of the House conference are interpreting this as a case of Boehner not being trustworthy.

But the big part of it is that as long as it's a question of the bulk of the conference insisting on positions that don't work, there's not a lot that the Speaker can do about it -- and therefore it doesn't make a lot of sense for anyone to challenge Boehner. That is, as long as anyone who is Speaker is going to be risking his or her position by negotiating with the Democrats and as long as such negotiations are (eventually, no matter how much bluster is tossed out along the way) necessary, the Speaker is basically screwed.

That changes if there's unified Republican government in 2013. But if there's divided government, and if Tea Partiers and others who have a principled stand against compromise continue to dominate a majority House GOP conference, it would be foolish for anyone to challenge Boehner -- and so he can probably keep the big chair if he wants to.


  1. I wish there was better reporting on this. Many reports seem to say that the problem for Boehner is a minority of House GOP members, on the order of a couple to several dozen. If that's the case, why can't Boehner go without them? He'd just have some conservative Democratic votes instead.

    More generally, it seems like Boehner has all the power he needs to control his majority. So is he instead appearing not to control it as a way to leverage far-right positions in negotiations? Given that you've also very well explained why he doesn't have to fear for his job so greatly, it doesn't make sense that he would haphazardly let a minority of tea party members jerk him around unless he expressly wanted to let them jerk him around.

    Is it more individual? Is Boehner worried about a primary challenger against himself in 2012?

  2. I guess this all was a genuine screw-up on Boehner's part and not an elaborate attempt to allow the payroll tax cut extension to unravel by using the cover of desiring more negotiation. Because only two strategies by the GOP made political and/or policy sense: immediately go along with the senate compromise or hold out to the end in order to destabilize economic recovery (with the alternate case of extracting more concessions). Delaying and caving made no sense, served no purpose.


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