Quotes of the day

When news of John Boehner’s resignation first broke, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was on stage in a hotel ballroom at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., an important stop for Republican presidential candidates. As he matter-of-factly reported that Boehner was stepping down, the crowd suddenly stood on its feet and burst out in wild applause.

Welcome to the Year of the Outsider. It just claimed its first victim. If I were Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, I’d be demanding loyalty oaths from the members of my caucus.

As if we needed to be reminded, the outsider dynamic is the strongest force in American politics today. Why? Americans look around and see that everything is broken. They think our politics are corrupt, the nation’s foreign policy is inept, the treasury is going bankrupt, and we are defenseless against uncontrolled immigration. They want to return to normal and see no obvious path there — except to completely upend the political system.


The Republican presidential primary has been dominated by outsiders like Donald J. Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, who have castigated their party’s leadership in Washington. Now, with conservatives claiming Mr. Boehner’s demise as a political victory, many expect his successor to face tremendous pressure to bring that combative spirit to the halls of Congress, and to instigate a showdown with the president over budget limits and the debt ceiling at the end of the year.

Uncompromising conservatives on and off Capitol Hill are demanding the elevation of one of their own to confront the president at every turn. And lawmakers who had pressed to get rid of Mr. Boehner warned Friday that they would not buckle in their defense of those spending limits, even in response to veto threats by Mr. Obama that could lead to a Christmastime stalemate and government shutdown…

“Essentially, Boehner is the kindergarten teacher who is leaving his flock unsupervised and wants to get all the sharp objects out of the room before he goes off into the sunset,” Mr. Krueger wrote.


Allies of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) are infuriated with the right wing of the House GOP conference, which they blame for his resignation…

“Any jackass can kick down a barn door. It takes a carpenter to hang one. We need a few more carpenters around here. Everybody knows it,” [Rep. Charlie] Dent said off the House floor…

“Frankly, I thought our leadership in too many cases has been too accommodating, too quick to appease those who will not govern,” Dent said. “They give far too much procedural consideration to those who will not vote for the bills at the end of the process. That’s going to end. We’ve had enough of that.”…

“You just can’t continue to have a super-ultra-minority continue to try to dictate what happens in the House of Representatives. It’s a big problem,” Nunes said.


Aside from a Quixotic effort to cajole support for immigration legislation, Boehner has been stuck with a caucus bitterly divided between those willing to accept incremental progress toward conservative goals and those, like Mulvaney, willing to blow up the normal courtesies and practices in Washington.

“It’s like the Marine Corps: You spend 90 percent of your time on 10 percent of your guys,” Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), an Iraq war veteran who still serves in the Marine Corps Reserve, said Friday. “I think that’s what ended up happening with Boehner toward the end, the last year or two. There was so much time dealing with fractious stuff inside the conference that it took a lot of time away from doing other things.”…

That 2010 class — 87 Republicans strong — ushered Boehner into the speaker’s chair but brought with it dozens of lawmakers from deeply conservative districts that distrusted all of Washington, Republicans and Democrats alike. Dozens of the freshmen became loyal foot soldiers to leadership, but they also feared that their biggest political risk would come in a Republican primary, not from a Democrat in a general election…

“Gone are the days when the leaders decide what the conference is going to do,” Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Kan.), who has been a low-level member of GOP leadership, said in the spring of 2013.


“Whoever is in the speaker’s chair has the same mathematics,” said Representative Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona…

In the short term, Mr. Boehner’s resignation clears the way to avoid a shutdown next week. With the help of House Democrats, Mr. Boehner no longer has to worry about a challenge to his leadership for doing just that…

But Mr. Boehner’s critics will aggressively resist such a strategy. They see his retirement as a capitulation and a recognition that conservative unrest against the establishment — the nexus of K Street and Capitol Hill that Mr. Boehner represented — is taking hold and that the old guard is on the run.


McCarthy is not as conservative as Boehner, which will be a challenge for him. But the bigger challenge is that he’ll need conservative votes to get elected, and those conservatives are making demands. What conservatives want is for the new speaker to be more assertive. That means with the president but also with Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who conservatives say should change the filibuster rules to keep Democrats from blocking conservative priorities. It’s not usually very easy for the leader of one house of Congress to tell the leader of anohter house what to do. If the new speaker doesn’t keep the pressure on McConnell and deliver results, predicts one Boehner ally, “We’re going to be right back here in the same place in six months.”

One of the ironies for Boehner is that as he heads out the door, conservatives give him credit for fighting to rid the House of earmarks. That was a tool he could have used to keep his fidgety conference in line. But it also demonstrated the high-water mark for his level of activity. When conservatives didn’t see him fighting as hard for the president’s executive action on immigration or against Planned Parenthood funding, they charged that his heart wasn’t really behind those conservative priorities. So the critique wasn’t that Boehner didn’t fight for conservative principles. He just didn’t fight for every one. That’s a high bar for the next speaker.


But somewhere along the road, a number of voices on the right began demanding that the Republican Congress not only block Mr. Obama’s agenda but enact a reversal of his policies. They took to the airwaves and the Internet and pronounced that congressional Republicans could undo the president’s agenda — with him still in office, mind you — and enact into law a conservative vision for government, without compromise.

Strangely, according to these voices, the only reason that was not occurring had nothing to do with the fact that the president was unlikely to repeal his own laws, or that under the Constitution, absent the assent of the president or two-thirds of both houses of Congress, you cannot make law. The problem was a lack of will on the part of congressional Republican leaders…

The tragedy here is that these voices have not been honest with our fellow conservatives. They have not been honest about what can be accomplished when your party controls Congress, but not the White House. As a result we missed chances to achieve important policies for the good of the country.

The response I often hear to these points is: “Well, Republicans at least need to fight.” On this I agree. It is imperative that we fight for what we believe in. But we should fight smartly. I have never heard of a football team that won by throwing only Hail Mary passes, yet that is what is being demanded of Republican leaders today. Victory on the field is more often a result of three yards and a cloud of dust. In politics this means incremental progress, winning hearts and minds before winning the vote — the kind of governance Ronald Reagan perfected.


“Next guy in the crosshairs will probably be McConnell,” Representative Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.) said in a text message to Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah), according to National Journal’s Sarah Mimms. Lee replied that he doubts that will happen. 

Still, Salmon’s speculation reflects a theory of Boehner’s struggles that is common among the outgoing speaker’s friends and foes alike — that his unpopularity among the grassroots stems more from McConnell’s failure to take advantage of the Senate majority than anything House Republicans have done. If that’s true, then Boehner’s departure can hardly be expected to ease the tensions between GOP leadership and the conservative base or preempt more leadership fights in the future…

Cruz offered a sustained denunciation of McConnell’s job performance on Thursday afternoon, but demurred three times when asked if he thought Senate Republicans need a new leader. “That is a question, at the end of the day, for the Republican conference. At least to date, the Republican conference has been willing to accept leadership’s handing control of the agenda over to Democrats,” Cruz told reporters. “I hope that changes. . . . I would be thrilled if Mitch McConnell would actually lead.”


Former Cantor aide Doug Heye, paraphrasing late New York Yankees hero Yogi Berra who died this week, said Boehner’s departure left the GOP with a dilemma.

“Republicans are coming to a fork in the road — and the question is — whether or not they will take it,” Heye told CNN. “There are a lot of people who wanted to fight — all we could do is fight Obama, fight the Democrats nonstop. Or do we have a strategy of not just throwing punches but landing punches?”

The way the GOP resolves that question could go a long way to sealing the fate of Bush and other Republican establishment candidates and answer another question hanging over the 2016 race: will the GOP nominate a candidate with broad enough appeal to win a general election?…

A track record of compromise and the ability to work seamlessly with both sides of the aisle is increasingly looking like a blemish on the records of establishment candidates like Bush rather than an asset.


Boehner and the rest of the GOP establishment assumed they could ride the Tea Party tide to power, and then co-opt that wing of the party, but that proved badly wrong. “Eric Cantor was the first casualty of the monster he helped build,” Ornstein says, referring to Boehner’s colleague and rival as House majority leader, who lost his seat to a primary challenge last year. “Boehner is the second. He won’t be the last.”

As Ornstein says, “This one also has a new blood versus old fart element, but it is much more a reflection of the radical shift inside the party, amplified by talk radio, blogs and social media.”…

There is a poignant twist to Boehner’s downfall, as Pitney notes: “A lot of the young Turks resent Boehner as one of the old bulls, but he started off as one of the young Turks. It would have come as a shock in the early 1990s that people would one day regard John Boehner as a figure of the establishment.”



Via RCP.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023