Green Room

Boehner forcing Obama to spend his political capital?

posted at 11:42 am on November 19, 2012 by

Wonder why John Boehner has taken an initially passive role in fiscal-cliff negotiations?  Read this smart take from my friend Salena Zito at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about the strategy behind Boehner’s maneuver:

Boehner knows he has no political capital to expend right now, but Obama has plenty. The Ohio congressman has a demoralized party, spooked by its losses, and he knows the only reason Republicans still hold the House is because of a crazy little thing called gerrymandering.

Boehner would keep losing if he believed he had just won simply because he holds a House majority. So if he wants to lead, he has to step back and allow Obama to lose his lead.

That’s why a walk through the halls of Capitol Hill found a growing number of House members, in leadership and on the bench, as well as senators more than willing to back up the speaker on his call for the president to “bring it on” when it comes to offering up some substantial solutions.

One of those is Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

“Boehner is right,” he said in an interview with the Trib. “The president keeps reminding us he just won an election. It’s time for the president to start talking about what he has to offer and put something on the table.”

There is some risk in this strategy, too, as a success here on policy redounds to the benefit of the Democrats.  But that’s going to be true anyway as long as Democrats hold the White House and Senate, and a failure to achieve a solution would be easily blamed on obstructionist Republicans.  Salena’s analysis shows both the conundrum Boehner faces in this vise, and the long-game strategy that he’s taking to rebuild political capital — and not just his, but the GOP’s as well.

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