Why Boehner Capitulated

from The Hill – Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) abrupt decision to capitulate and hand President Obama a straightforward debt-ceiling increase resulted from simmering divisions that have virtually paralyzed his majority.

On an issue that once defined his Speakership, Boehner is now confronting a president who won’t negotiate and a conference that can’t coalesce around an offer.

“We don’t have 218 votes, and when you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing,” the Speaker told reporters on Tuesday, summing up the fix he found himself in on the debt limit. “We’ve seen it before. We see it again.” Time and again over the last six months, rank-and-file Republicans have rejected their leadership’s proposals for attaching policy strings to extensions of the nation’s borrowing limit — most recently on Monday evening, when conservatives said “no” to a plan to reverse $6 billion in cuts to military pensions enacted in December.While Boehner spoke only of the debt limit on Tuesday, internal divisions have taken down bills or stymied progress on a host of issues in recent years, including immigration, appropriations bills, a major highway proposal and an alternative to Obama’s healthcare reform law.“There’s a great deal of frustration on the part of leadership because members are all over the map, and it makes it very difficult to govern at the end of the day,” Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) said.On the debt limit, Boehner has had to beat a slow and steady retreat from his original demands of equal or greater spending cuts or reforms in exchange for higher borrowing.While Republicans won token concessions for debt-limit extensions in 2013, the Speaker finally stood down on Tuesday, telling his conference he would bring a clean, year-long extension of the debt limit to the floor and allow Democrats to pass it.The announcement was met with silence, according to lawmakers in the room.“Disappointed, I think, would be the mood,” Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said. “Everyone understands where the Speaker is on this, and many people offered a sympathetic view of where he was.”

After the press conference, a rueful Boehner crooned the Disney song “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” on the way out the door.

But members said they weren’t fooled.

“This is not fun for him, to say the least,” Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said.

Throughout the day, Republicans vented their frustration in every direction — at the White House and Senate Democrats, at their leadership and at their own colleagues.

Even as conservative activists blasted Boehner in statements, members largely absolved him of blame.

“The frustration the conference has is not with the Speaker. It’s with President Obama,” said conservative Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), who voted against Boehner’s reelection and has suggested the House needs new leadership in the next Congress.

Boehner’s allies argued that the Speaker, by steering members away from a head-on confrontation, had saved his party from a repeat of its politically damaging defeat after the government shutdown last fall. Boehner began lowering expectations for a debt-limit victory weeks ago, and conservatives like Labrador publicly argued for putting up a clean bill that would be passed by Democrats.

Yet if the frustration did not erupt at Boehner, it manifested itself in back-biting between members on the two wings of the party.

Inside the Republican meeting on Tuesday, centrist Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.) stood up to complain that conservatives who rarely supported fiscal plans were once again driving the leadership’s considerations.

“I’m not going to let the country default on its obligations under any circumstances,” said Dent, one of 28 Republicans to support the clean debt-limit extension.

“I think more consideration should be given to those members who have the capacity to vote ‘yes’ on the debt ceiling than those who will always be voting ‘no,’ ” he added, describing his message to the party.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said he hoped the moment would be “a wake-up call” for conservatives who have often defied the leadership.

“The reality is we’ve got to come to the realization that we’re not in the majority out in D.C. We’re in the minority,” he said. “So how do we get to yes on something without, you know, having to be pure all the time and say, ‘we’ve got to govern?’

“Unfortunately there’s a number in our party unwilling to make that tough decision,” Kinzinger continued. “I hope they come around to it, because they’re not getting paid the big bucks to make easy decisions.”

Looking ahead, Republicans said their only hope to avoid another debt-ceiling surrender in 2015 was to win the Senate in November and change the political dynamic.

In the meantime, members started to hash out ideas inside a meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee on Tuesday afternoon. But the result, Lankford said, was the same.

“There was a lot of stuff thrown around, but there was no consensus,” he said. “If we had a consensus, we’d already be voting on it today. That’s still the challenge.”

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John Archdeacon
8 years ago

The republican leadership is not leading; they are following. If they didn’t have the votes on the debt ceiling debate, then put it to the vote and let it fall where it may. Let their vote be recorded so when they return home, the voters will then get their vote on the topic.

I am personally tired and no longer trust most in the republican leadership; too many are similar in their thinking to their socialist friends in the Democratic party. I say “throw these bums out”, especially Boehner.

Richard K.
8 years ago

I agree with Dale Barrett. If military pensions are to be removed, it needs to extend to Congress, Senate, White House, and even the Judiciary. John Boehner is not a true leader or he would have been able to affect the vote. WE need a new statesman like Newt Gingrich who can stare down the opposition. We need a fiscally responsible Congress and Senate who are willing to take a stand for our country and can articulate the fundamentals like Ronald Reagan. I like what Senator Cruz did in the now outlawed filibuster. Sure, some of his content was frivolous, but nobody else stepped up to take the torch. They were sniveling and complaining. He had the guts to stand for right and was criticized mercilessly by fellow republicans as well as the established leftist Democrats. We expect that kind of treatment from the opposition. It was just demoralizing to hear it from Senator McCain and others like him. Who in Congress can we look to be the next courageous and articulate leader for conservatism? I wish I knew! If you know, let us all hear him/her.

8 years ago
Reply to  Richard K.

You used the correct wording – STATESMAN. However, Newt Gingrich is not a good example. He is too unpredictable. We need someone who is wise & TRULY believes in this country from the bottom his/her heart & not just what the country or position can do for them. I truly hope and pray we can find one. There are a few promising ones but time will tell. We must put 2016 aside for now & concentrate on November, 2014. That is the priority right now.

Dale Barrett
8 years ago

There are far too many socialist republicans in the house and senate to go along with the democrats. All demoncrats are socialists, period. It is far beyond the time to vote them out. Yes we have been selling our votes if we bother to vote at all remember more than 4 million of us did not vote in the last presidential election, maybe that is why our emperor kept his office. I hope this Nov. all or most of the socialists will be gone. I did not hear one say “take my retirement and leave the Vet.s alone”. OK change the military retirement, but do it to the new recruits and do it to the senate, congress, president etc. as well. We have to get rid of the ACA, cut food stamps, welfare both corporate and personal. We need to get our house under financial control or our children and grandchildren are doomed.

8 years ago

Just an observation: If you google “how many US Representatives and Senators are Christian?” … You’ll soon discover that nearly all of them, other than Jewish, declare that they are Christian! Does anybody think these so-called Christians, both Republican and Democrat, meet behind closed doors to advance a “Christian” agenda? I would venture to say “never” … any politician declaring themselves “Christian” does so only for “votes” at election time, and then to forget about being a Christian until the next election.

Yet, if google “how many elected officials ever graduated from law school?” … For example, 57 US Senators were law school graduates, it is more likely that no matter which party affiliation, Republican or Democrat, all who graduated from Harvard Law School are the best of friends, probably even college fraternity buddies! I say they do meet behind closed doors, where they are all lifetime best of friends and frat brothers. Every piece of legislation they seem to pass always seems to benefit the legal profession. I know of no attorneys who live under the poverty level … 1/2 of all the attorneys in the world are here in the United States. That should tell you something.

We haven’t got a chance of reclaiming our Constitutional heritage or traditions until “We The People” vote out all these practitioners of “reasonable doubt” spin out of political office … Local, state, and especially national! (when was the last time a “lawyer” politician spoke that told the truth?)

8 years ago
Reply to  Rik

How many attorney politicians does it take to “screw up” a piece of legislation or a negotiation? … Answer: just one!

8 years ago

But he didn’t have to vote for it.

8 years ago

The most annoying part of this article for me was Adam Kinzinger’s comment of “The reality is we’ve got to come to the realization that we’re not in the majority out in D.C. We’re in the minority,” he said. “So how do we get to yes on something without, you know, having to be pure all the time and say, ‘we’ve got to govern?’ So in his mind, apparently standing up for the constituents who elected him to Congress to control spending and enforce some modest degree of prudent fiscal restraint on the ever-increasing growth of the government has to take a back seat to the notion of “we’ve got to govern”. By “we’ve got to govern”, I take that to mean he thinks the Republicans have to capitulate to whatever the Democrats want, so they can all continue with business as usual in Washington. Does he somehow think this gets him either respect or appreciation from the Democrats?

As for the Republican leadership now pitching that maybe the debt-ceiling dynamic will be different in 2015, if they win control of the Senate, I have to state the obvious. Obama will still be sitting in the White House in 2015 and he still won’t be willing to negotiate with the Republicans on anything. He will trot out the exact same scare tactics he has just successfully used and the mainstream media will dutifully repeat them as gospel word for word. So exactly what change in the political dynamic does the GOP leadership think will occur in 2015?

8 years ago
Reply to  PaulE

It’s all over but the shouting, and that is starting. The Republicans are now the high school girl who thinks she has to “put out” to be “popular” and ends up being the joke of the locker room. We’ll know for sure when we hear the post-mortem of the November election.

Jim Keever
8 years ago

He did not compromise, That word has been redefined. See Capitulate In the dictionary. That has been the case ever since Reagan, Maybe even started before that.

8 years ago

The Republican Party has brought this on themselves. To paraphrase a line by President Sheppard in the movie “An American President”, “I was so busy keeping my job that I didn’t have time to do my job”. They do just enough to keep their jobs but not too much as to upset the DEMS.The Repubs are afraid of the Dems and have been for years. Even when they controlled both houses and the Oval office they routinely capitulated to the Dems in the hopes that they would be liked and the Dems wouldn’t say bad things about them. I was a Republican for over 40 years but the current crop of spineless RINOs convinced me to leave the party. I am now a registered Independent and hopefully enough people will see the light and we can form areal Conservative party. It would be nice to have a TWO party system again because all we have right now is the DEMS and they are destroying the country.

Fred Fields
8 years ago

“The Dems have done a terrific job of publicly demonizing and minimizing the conservatives” With the help of the news media,. without the help of a horrifically biased press and new media this would not have happened.

8 years ago

What’s disappointing is that the Republicans will never win the populist voice of communication to the public. Because the Dems hold the “noise makers”, Reps will continue to bow and lose. The Dems have done a terrific job of publicly demonizing and minimizing the conservatives. With that pressure, the Reps have been caving and compromising. And as soon as they do, the Dems go out and condemn them for not doing enough. Unfortunately that means the country is being run by a single party that is short-sighted, narcissistic, opportunists and bullies.

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