Yes, it's your fault
In the wake of House Speaker John Boehner's embarrassing failure
to pass legislation that would prevent a government shutdown, there's been a lot
in Washington, D.C. about how Boehner faces a monumentally difficult challenge when it comes to managing his conservative conference. It's a storyline that even Boehner seems eager to embrace:
A clearly frustrated Boehner seemed to realize that he leads a conference where no plan is quite good enough. There are frequently about 30 Republicans who oppose leadership’s carefully crafted plans — just enough to mess things up. A reporter asked him whether he has a new idea to resolve the government funding fight. He laughed and said, “No.”
“Do you have an idea?” he asked the reporters. “They’ll just shoot it down anyway.”
Here's the thing: While it's absolutely true that Boehner faces an impossible challenge when it comes to passing legislation with nothing but Republican support, that's a only a problem because he's decided to make it one. It's within his power to pursue legislation that receives support from Democrats as well as Republicans, but at least so far, he's made the political decision not to go that route.
Normally, it takes 218 votes to pass a bill in the House. Currently, thanks to open seats, it takes 217 votes, but in either case, the story is basically the same: There are only 233 House Republicans, which means that to pass any partisan bill, he needs more than 93 percent of them to support his position.
It's insane to pursue a strategy that depends on winning more than 93 percent of the GOP conference, especially when anything that could pass on such a narrowly partisan basis would be dead on arrival in the Senate, let alone on the president's desk.
Instead of trying to appease the right, Boehner should move to the middle, and form a coalition with Democrats to create a governing majority in the House. I'm sure people in D.C. think that's crazy talk, but to anyone looking at the situation from the outside, it's common sense: Republicans lost the last presidential election, lost seats in the Senate, and lost the popular vote in the House, only hanging onto their slim majority thanks to gerrymandering.
If Republicans want to govern as though they have a far-right mandate, then their first order of business should be to actually win that mandate at the voting booth, but if they're going to try to force their agenda on an unsupportive public, then they really should at least demonstrate a basic level of competence by being able to do simple things like passing legislation to keep the government open. Instead of that, however, what we're seeing is a GOP that not only can't take care of the basics, but seems to believe that their inability to function is a source of political leverage.
The most common explanation of John Boehner's behavior is that he's afraid of a rebellion from his party's right flank, but if he's more afraid of his fellow Republicans than they are of him, then he's underestimating his own political influence. It wasn't that long ago that these very same Republicans elected him Speaker, and they weren't doing it simply to be nice. They were doing it because they didn't have any other viable alternative.
When it comes down it, Boehner is going to have come up with a legislative strategy that involves getting substantial Democratic support. There is no other viable alternative. And the quicker he can bring himself to that inevitable conclusion, the better off everyone will be.
9:32 AM PT:
"I like John Boehner," says Reid, "but he's gotta break away from the people that are hurting our country."