Here we go: Boehner won't rule out vote to raise the debt ceiling before stepping down as Speaker

Next month he settles all family business.

And there’s nothing much we can do.

Outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday wouldn’t rule out a vote to raise the nation’s borrowing limit before he quits Congress at the end of October…

“We’ll have to see. There’s a number of issues we’re gonna have to try to deal with over the coming month, but I’m not going to change my decision making process in any way,” Boehner told reporters when asked about the debt limit.

“It’s just a matter of if there is a way to get some things done so I don’t burden my successor, I’m gonna get it done,” added Boehner with his likely successor, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), standing nearby.

He’s got carte blanche for the next 30 days to pass whatever he wants to pass, whether it requires Democratic votes or not. In which case, why not help out his pal Kevin McCarthy by sparing him a bruising debt-ceiling fight this winter in his first few months as Speaker and taking it off the table? House conservatives will be itching to find fault with McCarthy over the next year so that they can accuse him of being a weak-kneed mini-Boehner when the next election for Speaker happens in 2017. Boehner can help McCarthy beat back that challenge by bringing as many tough bills to the floor as he can manage now and passing them with a coalition of Democrats and centrist Republicans. That’ll make life difficult for Mitch McConnell, but so what? Mitch McConnell made life very difficult for Boehner, and since McConnell’s top priority before the election is showing that the GOP can govern without brinksmanship over the debt limit or funding the government, he’ll go along with Boehner however reluctantly.

Kevin McCarthy will scream and cry about this grand sellout of conservative leverage, of course, because that’s what this particular script calls for. Via Erick Erickson, it’s failure theater, Speaker edition:

But Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) needs House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to do it. They are engaging in a game of “all powerful Speaker,” where Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) can claim “deep regret” that the Speaker has advanced the left’s agenda on the way out the door. But take a gander at this Congressional Research Service report on the role of the House Majority Leader, which is McCarthy’s present position.

“From an institutional perspective, the majority leader has a number of duties. Scheduling floor business is a prime responsibility of the majority leader. Although scheduling the House’s business is a collective activity of the majority party, the majority leader has a large say in shaping the chamber’s overall agenda and in determining when, whether, how, or in what order legislation is taken up.”…

If the Export-Import Bank gets reauthorized, if Planned Parenthood gets funded, and if the government continues to grow it will be because Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) turned a blind eye and got the legislation to the floor of the House where Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) could then rely on Democrat votes.

What could House conservatives do to stop a debt-ceiling hike before Boehner leaves? One obvious possibility is to threaten McCarthy by warning him that they’ll block his election as Speaker if this happens, but who knows if they have the votes to deny him 218 or if anyone who’s acceptable to conservatives could possibly muster 218 as an alternative. Another possibility would be to try to nuke Boehner before he formally resigns by pursuing Mark Meadows’s resolution to remove him, but I’m skeptical that they’d get the critical mass they need to boot Boehner in the ass when he already has one foot out the door. He’s well-liked personally; even people who disagree with him on the debt ceiling will be reluctant to humiliate him in his last days as Speaker. Besides, there’d be nothing stopping Boehner from simply asking House Democrats to give him the votes he needs to stay in power over the next few weeks and make the deals Democrats have been looking for all along.

The one real potential monkey wrench in the great debt-ceiling sellout is Pelosi, depending upon how much pain she wants to extract from House Republicans generally and Kevin McCarthy in particular. If Boehner brings a clean debt-ceiling hike to the floor, she could have her caucus vote no or present, forcing the GOP to get to 218 by themselves. They’d fail, which would mean Speaker McCarthy would have to come back to the debt ceiling this fall, which in turn would mean he’d need to come crawling to Pelosi later with concessions once House conservatives inevitably decide they won’t vote for a debt-ceiling hike then either. The choice for Pelosi, then, is whether she thinks it’s more important for the good of the country to get the debt ceiling off the table ASAP or if she wants to flirt with a technical default by forcing McCarthy to take this up less than a year away from a presidential election, with a potentially disastrous voter backlash to the GOP in the offing if there’s a standoff and Treasury ends up hitting the ceiling. We’ll see.