How Boehner could cut a deal and still keep his speakership

Past behavior is often a reliable predictor of future behavior. In the past, whenever there’s been a showdown with Republicans, Obama has chosen to cut a deal. Also, just as businesses often agree to settle lawsuits to avoid long-drawn out legal fights (even if they think they would win them), Obama may just want to get this over with. He may want to remove uncertainty — economic uncertainty, the uncertainty as to whether a long protracted fight does begin to reflect poorly on his leadership, and so on. He may not want the distraction as he starts his second term. And perhaps he’d be especially inclined to cut a deal if he could win an extension in the debt ceiling, delaying another showdown.

Let’s say, then, that Boehner does go ahead and cut a deal with Obama, which in all likelyhood would be worse than the “Plan B” option that failed tonight. Would there be a major revolt among House Republicans that would topple him as speaker? Perhaps. But maybe not. People have been too willing to assume that the defeat of “Plan B” is a rejection of Boehner as a leader. But these are two separate things. Speaking to members today, the sense I got was that rank and file Republicans understand the difficult position Boehner has been put in, with the tax cuts expiring automatically, Obama as president and Democrats in control of the Senate. So, many conservatives may have felt they needed to oppose “Plan B” so they didn’t get their hands dirty voting for what they saw as a tax increase (or perhaps they just feared how it would play in a potential primary challenge). But, these same members could still give a pass to Boehner, recognizing that he’s in a tough spot. Just as long as they get to keep their own hands clean and campaign as true conservatives who stood up to Obama.

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