Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Hopefully this'll be the last installment of this series. As the Democratic Senate has taken over negotiations and Boehner's admitting defeat, it probably will be.

To wit, this is what happened: with the debt default happening sometime tomorrowish, Boehner attempted to pass a bill in the House reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling, but couldn't find enough votes in the Republican caucus to do so. Not a huge surprise: he's leading a caucus of spoiled children that would destroy the world economy rather than get their way, after all. But given that he couldn't do it, the Senate stepped in to craft a bill.

Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, met with Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader. They hammered out a compromise, and this is all the Republicans got regarding Obamacare:

An anti-fraud measure will be added to Obamacare, requiring income verification for those receiving subsidies to purchase insurance under the law.

That's it. That's fucking nothing, and it probably should've been added to the law in the first place. It's a very slight tinker to make Obamacare better, not to gut the system wholesale. The Republicans shut down the government for 17 days, and all they got was a lousy income verification no-prize.

But the Senate Republicans took it, because (outside of Ted Cruz and occasionally Rand Paul), they're a moderate bunch. They have to be: you can't gerrymander Senate seats, so Senators have to campaign among all the residents of their state. And with no time to pass anything else, after the Senate passes this bill, Boehner will have no choice but to pass it too, with Democratic votes and the 30 or so moderates in his caucus, over the head of the Tea Party.

Which brings us to the last topic of discussion here: the "leadership," or lack thereof, of John Boehner. Time used to be, a House Speaker controlled his caucus. Earmarks were the traditional way, but that's gone now because of the shortsighted anti-pork campaigns of the last decade. But they had (and have) other methods of strongarming recalcitrant Congressmen into voting the way they wanted: campaign contributions, committee chairmanships, endorsements and campaigning in their district.

Most of these tools were and are available to Boehner still, even if earmarks are largely gone. He very well could have levelled them against the Tea Party, to bring them in line during one of the many votes where they bucked him at the last moment and blew up a deal Boehner had negotiated with Obama. He could have displayed resolve and stared them down, but instead he let them run roughshod over his Speakership until it barely mattered anymore. He's the weakest Speaker of the House in living memory, and the Democrats generally have to go over his head or behind his back to get anything done, because he commands just about nobody in his caucus.

It seems the Tea Party's happy with this: if they brought down his Speakership, they'd have to replace him with one of their own. If that happened, I'm sure that most of them do understand in their heart of hearts that their crazy ideas would destroy this country, and they'd be held to account by the voters and drummed out of office. However, if they had a stronger Speaker than Boehner strongarming them into taking moderate positions, they'd be primaried out of office by the Tea Party. So by their own desire, they want to be in a position where their mouths can write all the checks they like, but never be made to cash a single one.

Which, it could be argued, makes Boehner's "leadership" a fairly successful one, given the political realities of the Tea Party era. But I think that he could have and should have exerted more effort bringing them to heel. He's going to go down in history as one of the worst and most ineffectual Speakers in history. Worst, because his House never did anything of great value; most ineffectual because he barely got his own caucus to follow his lead.

Ah well. It'll all be over soon.

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