Ron Johnson: If Boehner agrees to tax hikes as part of a sequester deal, he's finished

Skip to 3:10 of the vid for the key bit. Not sure why Johnson’s trying to turn the spotlight on Boehner when the new Republican strategy is to keep it on Reid. Evidently Boehner’s not sure either:

Senate Democrats have unveiled a package that would replace the sequester with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. The Senate could act on a bill later this week, though it is unlikely to pass because Republicans oppose the tax hikes.

A frustrated Boehner told reporters, quote, “We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something.”

Is Johnson right, though? Politico thinks so, running a story this morning about sequestration being the least bad option for Boehner at this point. If he starts another secret, likely doomed negotiation with Obama, he’ll be breaking his pledge after the fiscal cliff to follow regular order in the House in the future. If he brings a bill to the floor that raises new revenue, he’ll have to pass it with a Democratic majority — just like he did with the fiscal cliff. Violating the Hastert Rule once to hike taxes was kinda sorta excusable because the party was facing automatic tax hikes on New Year’s Eve regardless. Another violation now, when there are automatic cuts but no new automatic revenue in the offing, would be much harder to explain. Which is why Boehner’s saying things like this:

Speaker John Boehner reportedly told his colleagues to hold their ground, even as Democrats ramp up their public-relations campaign on the sequester. “He told us to stay on offense,” says a second GOP member. “He wants us to stand up and articulate our position. He encouraged us to talk about the replacement packages that we’ve already passed, and to not worry about every story in the press.”

Boehner did not signal any movement toward a deal with the president. The meeting was “light” and “relatively boring,” according to a House staffer. “It was an update. People came back after a week back home, caught up, and heard more of the same on the sequester.”

Any reason to think digging in on the sequester, at least for the moment, is smart on the merits and not just convenient for the Speaker? Maybe, yeah. Note the trend:


We’ll likely never reach the point where O gets more blame for cuts than the GOP, the self-styled party of cuts, receives, but you may well see that margin tighten further (or, more likely, a swell in the “both equally” row) if Republicans start pushing the idea that they’re willing to let Obama choose which cuts to make. There’s risk in that, but there’s also risk in not letting the sequester take effect. If it does and it’s less damaging than feared, the Democrats’ credibility in future doomsaying over cuts will be shot. Plus, the longer the standoff drags on (especially if it gets bogged down in the Senate), the greater the risk to The One that he’ll be seen as ineffectual in being unable to end the crisis.