LaTourette: Blame Tea Party "chuckleheads," not Boehner's leadership

Let the recriminations begin!  Now that the House Republican caucus has fallen apart, at least momentarily, we can expect a lot of finger-pointing and blame-throwing from all sides — and in fact, it started almost immediately last night.  Fox and Friends plays this reaction from Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH), who says not to blame John Boehner for last night’s failure of his Plan B strategy.  Instead, LaTourette blames the Tea Party “chuckleheads” who have “screwed this place up.”

Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette said that Boehner is not to blame for the stalemate, the Tea Party is.

“I don’t know what the number is but say the number is 40 out of 240 – that’s not a repudiation of his leadership. That’s the same 40, 50 chuckleheads that all year … have screwed this place up. And he has done everything in his power to make nice to them, to bring them along, to make them feel included, but it hasn’t mattered,” he said.

I’m not sure that kicking a few of them out of their committee assignments in the last week or so made them feel particularly included.  Here’s a question for LaTourette: why do that before walking out on a limb with this Plan B strategy, since it would obviously alienate them and their allies just before a leadership-affirming vote like this?  That goes directly to strategy and leadership.  If Boehner and his team wanted to punish a few people for disunity, perhaps it should have waited until after the fiscal-cliff negotiations ended, no?

That’s not to say that LaTourette doesn’t have a genuine beef, either.  Steve Doocy defends the Tea Party opposition to Plan B as a response to Boehner abandoning the key principle of not raising taxes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make much sense as a defense.   At some point, we either cut a deal before the fiscal cliff raises everyone’s taxes, or go off the fiscal cliff and raise everyone’s taxes, or cut the deal after raising everyone’s taxes temporarily.  To the extent that the Tea Party caucus had an impact yesterday, it was a push toward those latter two outcomes.  And if either of the latter two outcomes happen, then Barack Obama will be able to claim credit for a massive middle-class tax cut after the fact, and the media will be more than happy to help build that narrative.

Republicans lost the presidential race and lost ground in the Senate, which means that they’re not going to be able to force a deal that doesn’t include some kind of tax hikes now.   Even the “revenue” that Boehner put on the table in his previous offers means tax increases — just not rate increases, a point on which Obama ran and won his second term as President.  That is what is meant by “elections have consequences.”  Apparently, the implications of the loss in November still haven’t sunk in with some in the House GOP.

Still, the “chuckleheads” to whom LaTourette refers got elected to their offices the same way Boehner and LaTourette did, and have as much claim to a mandate within their own districts. It’s the job of effective leadership to craft strategies that include enough of the caucus to bring them along — and to time punishment so that it doesn’t damage the key strategies in high-stakes negotiations.  There seems to be plenty of blame to go around today in the House Republican caucus, and name-calling won’t help resolve the situation.