Push, Meet Shove

10.03.13

It's All on Boehner

Always remember, this nonsense can end at any moment. John Boehner can call a vote on the Senate resolution. It would pass. As of last night, about 15 or so Republicans were on record publicly saying they'd vote for the Senate CR. Privately, it's got to be twice that. Combine that with about 200 Democrats, and there are your votes. Lickety split, the shutdown would end.

So Boehner is making a choice. Every hour this drags on, he is choosing to side with his radicals and against his normal conservatives (I won’t call them moderates; they’re plenty conservative, they’re just not crazy). Every hour, he and pretty much he alone is preventing those hundreds of thousands of people from earning the money with which they raise their kids, preventing the treatment of those children with pancreatic cancer that the wingers tried to lay on Harry Reid yesterday, preventing people from knowing the glories of Yosemite and Yellowstone and the Lincoln Memorial and all the rest. A majority in his House sits ready to cast the votes to reopen the government, and he won’t let it. Period.

Is there a delegation of normal conservatives going to him and pleading with him to do the right thing here? They can promise him that they’ll have his back in speakership fight. They can go to the mat for him with donors and insiders and pull every string they can to wire a speakership vote. It isn’t as if these people don’t have leverage if they’re willing to use it. They’re just not as inflamed as the nutters.

Is Boehner himself saying to any of these people: “Look, like you, I want to vote clean CR and be done with this. But I can’t call that vote unless you are going to be there for me. I need you to go on Fox, go on all the radio shows, and say I did the right thing. And I need you to go back to your districts and tell your voters that. If you’ll do that, I’ll make sure we can vote on the clean CR.” Is he? One somehow doubts it.

One big complication here is the debt debate. From Paul Kane’s article in today’s WaPo:

The speaker’s closest allies say he cannot afford to defy those on his right flank by ending the shutdown with largely Democratic votes.

Doing so would undermine his position among his members going into negotiations with the White House and Democrats over raising the federal debt limit, which Boehner and his leadership team regard as more critical than the impasse on government funding. Coming up empty-handed for conservatives on both would have broader ramifications.

On this topic of the debt limit. The extremists have convinced themselves that a default would be no big deal, or would be somehow helpful and cathartic to an overspending nation. They’ve had private briefing after briefing from economists and Wall Street types—people on their side—telling them what would happen. But they just don’t believe it. They are in fantasy land. A willed fantasy land. Boehner isn’t going to “get” anything out of the debt ceiling negotiations because, as with the shutdown, there is nothing to negotiate. Congress must pay the bills that it--not Obama; it--authorized and voted on.

We are at the point where Boehner should plainly be willing to give up the speakership if it comes to that. Yes, a person in power wants to stay in power. But there comes that point where a person of any decency, any sense of honor and self-esteem, says the hell with this. We weren’t at that point until this. But now we are at that point. This is madness.

As I sketched out above, I think maybe Boehner could do the right thing and still prevail, if the normal conservatives work hard enough for that outcome. But if he needs to go, he should go. He has a choice now that is as clear as it can be. Put the country first. Do the sane thing. Deal with the consequences. If he does, he will go down in history pretty well, after all his bad moments over the last three years, as someone who when push came to shove finally said enough. If he doesn’t, his reputation will be in tatters and his name will live on in shame.