“Meltdown” is really the meme du jour for House Republicans’ failure to coalesce around Boehner’s Plan B.
Great Speakers (and/or Majority Leaders) are not necessarily great statesmen (or stateswomen; let us not forget Nancy Pelosi). Perhaps that quality is even counter-indicated, and at any rate statesmanship seems rather rare these days in politics. But what great Speakers absolutely need to be is great herders of cats—that is, House members of their own Party.
They also need to be great strategists, although perhaps that’s the same thing.
And that means that, for starters, they shouldn’t open their big Speaker mouths to play this sort of game without knowing, absolutely knowing, they’ve got those cats in the bag.
Boehner didn’t—keep his mouth shut, that is, or absolutely know he had those votes lined up.
If you’re curious what actually happened, this piece by Robert Costa in National Review purports to describe the process. But short of saying, in a rather lengthy way, “many conservatives defected,” it doesn’t really tell us all that much.
Apparently some of those defectors were surprised and somewhat disappointed that Plan B didn’t go through despite their own failure to support it; perhaps they’d hoped that they could vote “no” as individuals and thus please their conservative base (and win re-election, of course; isn’t that what it’s all about?) while still allowing the bill to pass. In other words, they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. But sometimes that just doesn’t work out, and someone left this cake out in the rain.
DrewM at Ace’s counsels that it’s all not really such a big deal because the bill was never going to be law; Democrats in the Senate wouldn’t pass it and Obama wouldn’t sign it:
Passing it in the House alone was simply a public offer of good faith designed to have something to point to when Obama pushes the country over the cliff.
Yes, but the GOP desperately needed a “public offer of good faith” right now, in order to at least try not to have this thing pinned on them. Now they’ve lost even that, and look foolish in the process.
DrewM goes on:
We’re at this point because of the deal that Boehner and the GOP made in the summer of 2011 to avert hitting the debt ceiling. The $1.2 billion in cuts from sequestration everyone wants to avoid like the plague? That was our PRIZE.
But don’t forget that during the debt hike debate and shortly after, Boehner kept talking to Obama about a “grand bargain”. As part of that talk he put revenue on the table ($800 billion or so). Obama then demanded more revenue and the talks died.
And remember, the debt deal was supposed to be about SPENDING CUTS to more than offset the debt hike. Obama however pocketed Boehner’s willingness to include new revenue as a concession and gave nothing back in return.
So the deal was cut last year setting up the fiscal cliff (the tax extensions, the payroll tax holiday, the death tax cut, and of course the looming sequestration cuts once the “Super Committee” failed). The GOP was betting Mitt Romney or some other Republican would beat Obama. That was….unwise.
Now here we are.
As far as I can tell, Boehner has been one of the worst Speakers in history, at a time when we desperately need one of the best. This particular error—acting as though you have the votes when you don’t—is an unforced rookie error, something like a lawyer asking a question to which he/she doesn’t know the answer.
So, as Ezra Klein asks: will Boehner continue as Speaker when it comes to a vote on January 3? I don’t pretend to know any inside baseball about this—or about who his challenger would be, and whether that person would be better than Boehner, but it’s hard to believe he/she could be worse.
[NOTE: Also, this rift mirrors the larger rift in the Republican Party between the so-called "establishment" and the more conservative and/or Tea Party wing. Perhaps it's even the reason that Romney lost the election---the failure of the Party to coalesce behind him, or as many conservatives and/or libertarians might put it the failure of the establishment to allow them to have a more conservative or libertarian candidate (although I've never understood exactly how they were stopped, when no attractive candidate of such ilk threw a hat into the ring, and nominees are selected through primaries). The Republican Party is not only weak right now but dangerously divided.
Or perhaps it's weak because it's dangerously divided. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, leaves whatever principles it has behind in order to win politically. Whatever Pelosi did to get those votes on HCR, she sure got em, didn't she? And although the Party lost temporarily as a result in 2010, look how it's bounced back.]
[ADDENDUM: Oh, and in case you want to know---and in case it's not obvious from the foregoing---I think Boehner's got to go, ASAP. Republicans desperately need someone new at the helm.]