Boehner Can’t Control his Caucus

September 22nd, 2011 at 2:10 pm | 55 Comments |

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At some point, Speaker John Boehner was going to have to show the most conservative members of his caucus that he would get work done in the House without them.

Yesterday revealed that day has not yet come. The ramifications of the failure to pass the Continuing Resolution (CR) for FY12 in the House will be far-reaching. It’s true that Democrats took advantage of the Tea Party defections from the GOP leadership and aided in killing the CR. But this was the second embarrassment on a critical vote for the House Republican leadership this year.

Rep. Eric Cantor had predicted that the votes were there to pass the CR. “All is well.” It wasn’t.

In blunt terms, the Speaker asked his caucus to endorse a deal that the House of Representatives had made with the Administration. The CR conformed to the Budget Control Act that was passed to increase the debt ceiling. The House and its Speaker had made a deal. The CR was the natural legislative result of that deal.

This was not perfidy on the part of the President, or some RINO conspiracy. This was the word of the House of Representatives, given and vouched for by the Speaker to the President. For members of his own caucus to publicly fail to help the Speaker keep his commitment shows that Republicans in the House (and in the country) are divided. They are in danger of becoming the equivalent of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo after the Third Balkan War.

If the United States had a parliamentary system, the Speaker would have to step down. His leadership of his own party has been repudiated by the right of the right.

Now comes decision time for the Speaker and his team.

Will Speaker Boehner turn to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and try to forge a centrist coalition to pass the CR? Can either of them gather enough votes to pass, once again, funding for the government? Does this failure pre-sage gridlock within the Joint Select Committee’s “12 Apostles”? With whom does the Administration negotiate any “Grand Bargain” on fiscal policy? Jim Jordan?

At some point, the House must repudiate extremists in both parties, or continue to suffer growing disgust and anger from the voters. We have seen silliness on the Continuing Resolution for FY11, stupidity on the battle on the increase in the debt ceiling, and now betrayal in the vote yesterday on the CR for FY12. One cannot foul one’s nest forever without serious consequences.

A quick survey of very experienced former senior members of House and Senate staff showed unanimity this morning– none of them could recall such a public humiliation for any Speaker of the House in the past four decades.

The CR for FY12 will be patched up in some fashion and passed. No doubt.

The question is whether the wounds the Speaker has suffered can be patched up.

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55 Comments so far ↓

  • Watusie

    No mention of the fact that the core problem is that Republicans are insisting that disaster relief funds be offset with a partisan budget cut? In other words, they saw another hostage taking opportunity and just could not refrain from seizing it?

    Also, more critical analysis has to be given to the idea that the defeat was due to “The Tea Party”. There are 60 members of the House Tea Party Caucus. Only 25 voted “Nay”.

    (And what of Michele Bachmann, who claims to lead that caucus? Missed the vote, hasn’t cast a vote since August 1st, and has missed the last 29 roll calls in the House.)

    I don’t really see much of a separation between teabagger crazy and just run-of-the-mill Republican crazy. It is all much of a muchness.

    • valkayec

      You forgot to mention that the GOP House made a budget deal and then repudiated it. They decided that instead of maintaining the agreement they voted on they were going to go after even greater cuts. It’s like saying, I know I signed an agreement with you, but now I’ve changed my mind and want something more.

      I don’t envy Boehner his position. He’s either got to figure out a way to bribe, push, threaten or somehow wrangle his caucus or he’s going to have to work with Pelosi and Hoyer to get the necessary votes to pass anything. He might take a page out of Gingrich’s play book: vote for this or you won’t receive any re-election help from us.

      • Chris Balsz

        “You forgot to mention that the GOP House made a budget deal and then repudiated it. They decided that instead of maintaining the agreement they voted on they were going to go after even greater cuts. It’s like saying, I know I signed an agreement with you, but now I’ve changed my mind and want something more.”

        Did that agreement bar President Obama from asking for tax hikes?

        • balconesfault

          Separate issue. Obama didn’t say he’d veto the CR for failure to include tax hikes.

          Thanks for conflating separate issues, though.

        • Chris Balsz

          Actually a discussion of raising tax rates is always the same issue – whether or not to raise tax rates.

          In your opinion, then, agreeing not to raise tax rates as part of a budget deal, does not preclude him from demanding them as part of a subsequent “jobs” bill? It’s kind of harsh, when you realize the fact that the Congress is not subordinate to the President.

        • valkayec

          Chris, nice try. But the President was talking about whatever came out of the Special Budget Committee, not the Continuing Resolution. Big difference.

  • Saladdin

    When the Senate passed it’s own version of the CR, they effectively outplayed the House. Now the House looks as if it can’t get it’s act together to pass an already agreed upon issue. This was all too predictable.

  • TexasDog

    Yesterday before the vote I wrote:

    TexasDog // Sep 21, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    It is time for real Republican leaders to cast off the smothering cloak of the far-right and to fight for America not the Tea party. But who are these Republican leaders we hope to see lead the party out of this disaster? Is Boehner the answer?

    - Today we are still waiting for Boehner to step away from the Tea Party and lead.

    • balconesfault

      John Boenher is afraid of stepping far enough out in front of his caucus that it gives Cantor room to fully extend his arm when he’s thrusting the knifeblade.

      • TexasDog

        Very visual – I like that.

      • andydp

        I used this before in another thread but it bears repeating: Rep Cantor looks like he’s waiting for the right moment to get that knife in and give it a couple of twists. A phrase from Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare says it all:

        “Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look.”

        Caesar means that Cassius looks dangerously dissatisfied, as if he were starved for power.

  • Oldskool

    If your goal is to make people believe ‘government’ is a terrible thing, their behavior makes perfect sense.

  • Graychin

    As you sow, that shall you reap……

  • forgetn

    I suspect that Boehner has very little life left in his leadership, because the only reason he’s there is to deliver the congress majority, if he cannot do that, there’s really no point in him being there at all.

    Never mind parliamentary democracy — he’s a lame duck as of today! He serves no real purpose here (aside from having a nice office). Not sure the other guys can do anything, in this electoral cycle there is no upside in the GOP office holders to negotiate anything with the administration — they’ve often said they consider the WH holder to be illegitimate, to negotiate or agree to any course of action would brand them as traitor back home!

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  • more5600

    “At some point, the House must repudiate extremists in BOTH parties…”

    Both parties? I don’t recall Nancy Polosi being hung out to dry by members of her own party. There are extremists in the House alright, they are called Tea Party Republicans.

    The Dems should make every vote a party line vote to stick it to Boehner and Canter but they won’t because they are responsible and reasonable. Please name for me the large caucus of extremists on the Dem side.

    • elizajane

      Like More5600 said.
      Get rid of that false equivalence bug. There’s no problem with any left-wing extremists in congress: this is a problem of the right wing.

  • Solo4114

    I doubt this will matter much in the long run. It’s part of a continuing narrative, yes, but as an isolated incident, it is hardly what I’d expect to be a tipping point.

    Even if Boehner crosses the aisle to scrape together a coalition, it will simply give him less ability to do so in the future. Likewise, if he backs down and gives the minority of the minority of the minority what it wants, he will effectively have fallen victim to the very brinksmen he’s used in the past, which will only encourage them.

    Boehner and the GOP place a particularly high value on party coherence, it seems. Certainly as evidenced by his unwillingness to tell the Tea Party contingent to go pound sand and push a deal through anyway. Boehner also seems to lack the ability to punish these dissidents within his own ranks the way, say, a Tom DeLay might’ve in years past. It is for this reason that the Tea Party’s intransigence will not amount to any kind of meaningful shift in how the GOP conducts itself. The most extreme members will continue to dictate policy and the party — to maintain its coherence — will simply continue to cater to them or try to cajole them and pass one-party (but one UNIFIED party!!) legislation.

    Let’s look at Boehner’s options realistically. Any time the Tea Party bucks him, he can:

    (A) Run to the Democrats and give them what they want to cut a deal;


    (B) Give the Tea Party what it wants to cut a deal;


    (C) Convince the Tea Party that it wants the deal he’s brokered (perhaps with minor alterations);


    (D) Some combination of B and C.

    This is the danger of running a small majority. Suddenly, everyone’s a kingmaker. We saw this in the Senate from ’08 until the Scott Brown special election. At one point during the Health Reform debate, Joe Lieberman threatened not to vote for the proposal if it included XYZ provision, and Roland Burris (Yes, him) threatened not to vote for the proposal if it DIDN’T include XYZ provision.

    When you have a very slim margin of error, your options are either to hold your party together by any means available, or piss your party off by breaking ranks to get one or two guys on the other side to back your play. Trouble is, you won’t get those one or two guys on the other side every time, so you need to keep your people happy for the NEXT vote. When you don’t have any wiggle room to allow for “protest” votes, this is what happens. Meanwhile, the opposition can let you twist in the wind.

  • Balsack

    Can’t control his Caucus?

    He will be lucky, 10 years from today, to be able to control his bladder.

    Someone mentioned the Orange Man, above.
    So, then. Can we substitute Yellow for Orange in this great Randy Newmann tune?
    Gee. Hope I will not get banned for mentioning Randy Newmann?

    Anyway, hope it will not be taken down from our Democracy Wall at FrumForum!
    Truly this is a part of our culture. You new RuperPublican Idiots.

    If you could have seen Randy Newmann when he was in his Prime, like Ms Jean Brody, then you would know just how great Randy Newmann truly was when he was about 25 years old. Very lean, mean and singing like a banshee, and banging the keys!

    Whatever happened to Randy Newmann when he started to get rich? He lost his jazz. Not to mention his jizz, perhaps.

    • Balsack

      Orange or Yellow, Randy Newmann’s tune is pretty refreshing.

      BUT, this tune has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in common with Boner Boehner’s thinking, these days.

      Some day, though, Boner Boehner might take a listen to Randy Newmann, and then see the light!

      I am not sure about the lyrics of Randy’s tune. Still, it recalls to me the fact that about a hundred years ago, only Chinese MEN were admitted to the United States in the west to work, BUT their yellow women were not able to come with them. As we all know from history.

  • Jamie McFadden

    This is what naturally follows when the powers of government are entrusted to people who don’t believe such powers should even exist. What we’re getting is not “small government” but “no government”.
    The American people need to get real and stop electing these clowns.

    • Grace

      It also naturally follows from electing people who shout “small government!” from the clown car as it careens around the ring, with the clowns having absolutely no idea or specifics as to what they mean by “small government.” It’s now just a phrase they all have to spout when reciting the liturgy, but ask any one of them exactly what they mean by small government and the best you might get out of one is “get rid of Obamacare.” An exceptionally gifted one might be able to tell you it means get rid of anything that libruls like.

      When the GOP controlled all three branches from 2000-2006, small government was the last thing on their minds as they instituted Medicare D, NCLB, an unprovoked war, a massive Homeland Security apparatus, etc., and it will be the last thing on their minds as soon as they regain power.

  • Churl

    Perhaps Boehner should make sure he has a deal with his caucus before he commits to one with somebody else?

  • TerryF98

    I blame it on the drink! Stop drinking and get governing for ALL Americans.

    • politico

      The only guy I know who acts like Boehner is a slobbering drunk, but I would be the last person to call the Speaker a drunk.

  • JohnMcC

    Short note to say “well done” to Leader Reid.

  • LauraNo

    “At some point, the House must repudiate extremists in both parties…”

    WHO THE HELL are the extremists in the democratic party?

    • dugfromthearth

      there are extremists in the democratic party. They just don’t have a media service devoted to worshipping them and giving them airtime.

      • balconesfault

        And they don’t hold up necessary, normally routine, budgetary processes in order to force through their extremist agenda.

      • DeathByIrony

        And by and large, they’re pretty tame.
        Bombastic? Sure. Gullible? Yep. Think too highly of themselves? You betcha.
        But on a one for one basis, liberal extremists in congress don’t make for nearly as interesting headlines.

  • Smargalicious

    I, for one, believe that the term “tea bagger”, which is a vulgar sexually oriented phrase, should be banned under the following statement by the editors: encourages robust and lively, but civil participation from our readers. By posting here, you agree to the terms of service. You agree to keep your comments on topic, respectful and free of gratuitous profanity. While we do not censor comments based on political or ideological point of view, comments that are abusive, engage in personal attacks, contain racist, sexist, homophobic or other slurs, express hatred, are off-topic, use excessive foul language, or include any other type of ad hominem attacks…

    • Watusie

      Hmmm….somebody really, really hates the new rules!

      Anyway, the teabaggers named themselves and evermore shall they remain:

      I’m Proud to Be a Tea Bagger by Andrew Breitbart


      So pack up your manufactured outrage and move along.

    • balconesfault

      Huh … so if someone comes up with a really creative sex act and calls it “the Austrian School”, we can ban any references to that particular blight on our economic vocabulary?

    • indy

      I liked you when I thought you might be doing the best political parody I’d ever seen. Quite a disappointment, all in all.

    • dennis

      Really, Smarg? The incredulity of your post is astonishing. For as long as I’ve been attending FF, your remarks ALWAYS smack of insulting, racist, phobic remarks. You ask for civility? You should ask it of yourself first. My goodness.

      • jollyroger

        Let’s not forget the charming moment when Smegma lickin’ confronted David’s daughter with the spectre of teenage boys masturbating in their parents’ basement…That was the high road fer sure.

    • Balsack

      Not banned. But surely shunned.
      The Tea Baggers, I mean.
      Should be shunned.

    • johnqpublic

      Smargalicious should also be banned since this is also the term for licking off the frothy mixture known as “Santorum”.

    • DeathByIrony

      Christ guys. Lets draw the curtain of charity on the troll-baiting, alright?

  • Stewardship

    I don’t mind individual members of Congress bucking their leadership. Their voters–their constituents–sent them to Washington to represent their interests, not those of a handful of people who’ve spent careers in the institution trading favors and collecting chits from the rest of the members.

    We’d get a lot more done if every member of Congress declared themselves, formally, as Independents.

    I really would like to be a fly on the wall when a newbie arrives to listen to what they’re promised or how they’re buttered up to toe the party line (either party). I’ve known a couple dozen wonderful state legislators from around the country who were principled and committed to various issues. After a couple months in DC, they morphed into caucus bots without any indication of independent (or their former) thinking.

  • Diomedes

    “Boehner Can’t Control his Caucus”

    The only way that could be an even bigger double entendre is if it read:

    “Boehner Can’t Control his Caucus of Tea Baggers”


  • Balsack

    Why are FrumForum people considered by some to be Republicans? Because it seems that most people on FrumForum are not Republicans in today’s sense of the word. And this is a very good thing.

    IF FrumForum people are similar to what most people think of as today’s Republicans, then I will eat my hat.

    My greatest respect goes out to all the guys/gals around the world who are doing their damndest, at great colleges and universities, to try to better understand our world. This includes Qinghua University,, and Leeds University. Not to mention all those lessor known colleges and universities. These are the GREAT REPUBLICANS of our world, today. Our true Republicans of today are our researchers who try to sift sht from Shinola.

    I just finished listening to Hal Holbrook/Twain on NPR. He mentioned during his interview that the thing which still puts fire in him, at age 86, is listening to today’s news programs. Hal Holbrook gets so pissed off listening to Fox News/MSNBC News that this fires him up at age 86. And he is galvanized enough by listening to today’s USA news to be able to go out and do another of his Twain performances.

    I wish everyone could have the advantage to listen to Hal Holbrook/Twain at a very early age. Just as I wish that everyone could benefit from a PhD in just about any science.

    Because there is really nothing better, when one bites into a ripe peach, with the peach goo dripping down from ones gob, than to also understand the chemistry of the peach.

    And, if everyone understood the chemistry of Georgia, and Georgia Political Peaches, then we would have one less man put to death on Death Row. Not that I care. Better he than I!

  • Balsack

    But. Can Boehner control his CUCKOOS?
    This might be a better question!

    Forget Boehener who is more of a KooKoo than a Cuckoo!

    Listen to the REAL birds who sing more sweetly and don’t cost nothing to listen to:

    By the way, I do not know who is John Renbourn. But he made one fine song, here. Kudos to John Renborn. Let us hope that John Renborn had his time in the sun for this very great song.

    And, I just wish that Lead Belly could have been called Boehner. And Boehner could have been called Lead Belly.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    The simple fact is Boehner is not hard enough on his caucus, he has to nail them repeatedly. America needs a hard Boehner, not a soft one. It would be better if we still had a Dick Armey and not just one Boehner

    • Diomedes

      “America needs a hard Boehner, not a soft one. It would be better if we still had a Dick Armey and not just one Boehner”

      Well, unfortunately, the Boehner is soft because being Tea-bagged is not his thing.

      Maybe if we brought back both ‘Dick Armey’ and ‘Anthony Weiner’, that would produce enough phalic energy to finally subdue the Tea Baggers once and for all.

    • valkayec

      As a side note, in private during a meeting with GOP lawmakers, Boehner gave ‘em hell.

      In a story posted on ThinkProgress:

      “Following the surprise defeat yesterday of a GOP resolution to keep the government funded, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was described as “spitting nails” in a closed-door meeting with other GOP lawmakers, suggesting “the usually unflappable speaker is reaching something close to a breaking point with his internally divided conference.” The National Journal reports that, in private, Boehner reportedly called the 48 Republicans who broke with the GOP leadership to kill he measure “know-it-alls who have all the right answers.” The bill contained funds for disaster relief, which were offset by spending cuts elsewhere. But Boehner is now threatening his caucus with the prospect of proceeding with a “clean” continuing resolution, which would not have the offsets and be more costly, and thus, less appealing to the Tea Party wing of the party.”

      National Journal original story:

    • valkayec

      No Dick Armey, please. He’s the political leader, trainer and educator, and primary policy creator of the Tea Party. The insurrection we have now regarding the Tea Party is largely a result of Dick Armey’s influence.

  • akindependent

    “At some point, the House must repudiate extremists in both parties”
    Those damned leftwingers, holding the nation hostage again.

  • rockstar

    What about the Blue Dog Democrats? Do they count as the lunatic fringe of the Democratic party?

  • Houndentenor

    The GOP incited a mob and now are shocked that they can’t control it? What did they think would happen? Oh right, this is the same bunch that though we’d be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq.

    You made your bed. Now lie in it.

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