There is wave of bumptious Boehner bashing now going on
following Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner’s agreeing
to a “clean” increase in the U.S. debt ceiling. A small number
of Republicans joined with all but two Democratic house
members to pass the increase which was then sent on to the
U.S. senate where it also passed with all Democratic senators
voting for it and all Republicans voting “no.”
Democratic leaders immediately praised Boehner for “coming
to his senses,” and many radical Republicans criticized him
for “caving in” to the Democrats.
I find both the praise of the Democrats and the criticism of the
radical Republicans to be more than a little ludicrous in the
face of the facts.
What are those facts? First, Republicans do control the U.S.
house, but not the U.S. senate. Democrats have no interest in
compromising (i.e., agreeing to spending cuts in return for
GOP passing the debt limit increase), so the ONLY outcome
of Mr Boehner’s and his GOP colleagues’ refusal to raise the
debt limit would be another government shutdown. What would
be the certain result of another government shutdown? It would
be, as it always is, a negative reaction by most voters as the 2014
mid-term elections approach only a few months away. Second,
the Republicans now clearly have significant momentum and
a huge advantage as the Democrats’ Obamacare legislation
continues to roll out disastrously. This has caused most neutral
political observers to suggest that not only is the GOP likely to
win back control of the U.S. senate (based on current polls), the
conservative party is also likely to pick up seats in the U.S. house
(where they already have clear control). Democrats are
DESPERATE, I repeat, DESPERATE, for their opposition to
give them an issue to divert attention from their Obamacare
debacle, and shutting down the government at this time would
have done exactly that.
The praise of Boehner by Democratic leaders is therefore
only a pro forma (and reluctant) act; in private, any Democratic
strategist who knows even the basics of U.S. politics, knows
that Speaker Boehner has outplayed them on the 2014 chess board.
It might not yet be “check mate,” but the liberals have lost their
queen (Obamacare), and now some rooks and castles
(a government shutdown).
Last autumn, when the debt limit increase previously appeared,
so many house members insisted on voting against it despite
not having the votes in the senate, nor occupation of the White
House to sign it, that the government was in fact shut down.
The result was a significant public reaction, especially by
independent voters, against the Republican Party and its 2014
candidates. Mr, Boehner, who had been forced then to resist the
debt limit increase, finally prevailed with a compromise, and
the negative reactions not only went away, but was transferred
to the Democrats as the Obamacare roll-out debacle unfolded.
Recognizing that their speaker had been right all along, his
members gave him a standing ovation following the vote.
So what changed in the few months between last autumn and
now in February that would prompt house Republicans to vote
against a debt limit increase and thus shut down the
government? The answer is that nothing has changed, other
than the Republicans were on their way to an historic victory
next November that could probably only be endangered by
shutting down the government.
We then ask the question: Who are these Republicans who are
calling for Speaker Boehner to be dumped because he did the
smartest and most effective thing he could do in the present
circumstances? Remember, only a few Republicans actually
voted for increasing the debt limit. One hundred ninety-nine
did not. No GOP senators voted to increase it. The debt
limit increase issue totally belongs to the Democrats. Any
attempt to suggest otherwise is ludicrous. No one, including
Mr. Boehner, is disagreeing in principle with those
conservatives who oppose the debt limit increase. The only
disagreement is how to go about eventually stopping it.
I suggest that the only way to do this is win back control of
the U.S. senate in 2014, and if possible, increase control of
the U.S. house. Then, in 2016, conservatives will need to
win the presidency. It is really the only way to do it.
So the TRUE question is: Did Speaker Boehner’s strategy
help or hinder those who truly want to lower the debt limit
rather than continually raising it?
The answer clearly is that Mr. Boehner has enhanced his
party’s chances to win in 2014. Those who want to “dump”
him therefore must not want to win next November.
That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the
“dump” Boehner effort which is bumptious at best.
John Boehner is not the brilliant idea man, nor the superb
debater, that his predecessor Newt Gingrich was, but he has
shown himself to be an effective leader of his party while
they controlled only one house of Congress. While others
have shouted out slogans of ideological “purity,” he has
been the person who has had to manage the day-to-day
work of his caucus and his party.
Unlike the Democratic caucus in the U.S. house, the GOP
caucus has been chronically splintered.
Others have previously described Mr. Boehner as the only
“adult” in the leadership of either side in the U.S. house,
and certainly in his party. There are many Democrats who
understandably disagree with his philosophy, but I think he
has gained the respect on all sides in his legislative body.
My final question is: If the player on your side of a match
is a chess master, do you suddenly take him out and replace
him with a noisy kid?
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.