The speaker took the gavel with a nod to his disgruntled members, promising his priority in this new Congress would be to reduce the nation’s rising $16.4 trillion in debt.
“The American Dream is in peril so long as its namesake is weighed down by this anchor of debt,” Boehner told the chamber. “Break its hold, and we begin to set our economy free. Jobs will come home. Confidence will come back.”
Sure, Boehner was moved by the moment. (He is only the 53rd person to hold the job.) But his tears could just have easily reflected his tremendously challenging first two years as speaker and the political perils that await him in the next two.
Boehner’s week epitomized these challenges. He found himself on the outside looking in during the final negotiations — and credit-taking — on the “fiscal cliff” deal. He was pilloried by Northeastern lawmakers, including Republican Reps. Mike Grimm (N.Y.) and Peter King (N.Y.), for refusing to bring up legislation to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy. He narrowly avoided an embarrassing second-ballot vote in his bid for another term as speaker, a fate that had not befallen any speaker since 1923.
Yes, Boehner did win the speakership again. But his power to wrangle his Republican colleagues to support his priorities appears to be at an all-time low, and there is already speculation about when he might decide that enough is enough and step down.
It’s hard not to notice the Ron Paul connection to the Boehner resistance: Jones and Amash are two of just three House members who backed Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who won a November special election and voted for Amash rather than Boehner, is another Paul acolyte – Paul went so far as to single out Massie and Amash for praise in June when he announced that he was essentially ending his presidential campaign.
Despite failing to take the speaker’s gavel away from John Boehner, one Republican who rebelled against his party’s leader during Thursday’s election said: “It was important to make a statement.”
“This is a matter of conscience,” Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, said off the House floor on Thursday. “This isn’t a political payback. This is a matter of conscience when you see a country falling apart.”
People who have watched this whole deal unfold have lost a lot of confidence in Congress in its ability to get anything done in a bipartisan manner. What do you think going forward as we have a new Congress in session now?
“I think that a lot of people have learned a lot of lessons over the last two years. I told Speaker Boehner that him running over to the White House and talking to the president, that’s not the way you’re supposed to legislate. We’re supposed to do the legislation here in the House and Senate, then send it to the President for his signature. Speaker Boehner says he’s not going to do that anymore. He’s not going to go over there. I think that’ll be a good place to start. And I think we need to talk more direct with Congress to Congress, Democrat-Republican, and on the Senate side, and work some things out instead of trying to do everything in such a high noon fashion. We could be a lot more effective if everyone backed down their bluster.”
Boehner then finds himself reelected to the speakership at his own personal low point in the office, a bit of timing that raises a simple yet profound question: Where does he go from here?
We put that very question to a handful of smart Republican strategists — most of whom acknowledged that there is no easy path forward for Boehner now.
“Is he taking a hit right now? Yes,” said Kevin Madden, a former Boehner aide. “But even the members voting ‘no’ on the agreement who also may not publicly support John privately appreciate his effort.” Drawing on Boehner’s time as a high school football player, Madden added: “He’s going to get right back up, get back into the huddle and get his team ready for the next play.”
That next play will almost certainly be the debt ceiling fight, and the stakes are high. ”He had better deliver on spending cuts and entitlement reform come debt ceiling time,” said one senior party strategist granted anonymity to speak candidly.
Mr. Obama has also said he will demand equivalent revenue increases for every dollar of spending cuts won by Republicans over the next year. That could be done by further limits on deductions and loopholes for corporations and the rich, including eliminating the carried-interest loophole that lets hedge fund managers declare that their income is a form of capital gains. But it will be a struggle to uphold that pledge, given the maddening nature of his opponents.
In the weeks to come, Republicans will use not just the debt-ceiling threat, but also the $100 billion across-the-board cuts known as the sequester, delayed for two months in this week’s deal, and the potential shutdown of the government when the current spending resolution expires in March. Standing up to brinkmanship will require a level of resolve that the president has yet to fully demonstrate.
Despite poll numbers showing the majority of Americans now support gay marriage, House Speaker John Boehner sent a strong message today authorizing the continued use of taxpayer funds to defend a federal law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
In February 2011, the Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in various court challenges across the country. Boehner subsequently announced that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) would take over the defense of the law. BLAG is comprised of five members of the House leadership. The Republican majority tapped superstar lawyer Paul Clement to lead the effort.
Today, House Republicans included DOMA language in the Opening Day Rules package authorizing the continued use of taxpayer funds. …
Michael Steel, a spokesperson for Boehner, said in a statement today: “We continue to believe the constitutionality of the law should be judged by the court, not the president unilaterally–and will provide the resources needed to protect our system of checks and balances.”