Marching boldly into the post-Boehner era... or not

We’ve had a couple of days now to absorb the news of Speaker Boehner’s announcement and I’ve seen the end zone dancing at various conservative events, as well as here at Hot Air and among some of our presidential candidates. There’s also more than a little concern being expressed among old hands in the party structure and in Congress. Somebody has to wind up being correct, whether it’s Boehner’s critics or or the Speaker himself who refers to them today as “false prophets.” Of course, with one target gone, talk quickly switched to the next duck in the shooting gallery… Mitch McConnell. (Yahoo News)

Some of the U.S. Congress’s staunchest conservative Republicans celebrated House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation on Friday and trained their sights on a new target: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell…

Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, said the speaker’s decision “should be an absolute warning sign to McConnell.” He said the Senate leader should more assertively promote a conservative Republican agenda, including by changing Senate rules so that Democrats cannot easily block legislation.

Conservative Republicans have expressed frustration since the start of 2015, after Republicans gained eight seats and the Senate majority in the 2014 elections, about McConnell’s seeming inability to lead the chamber in a more rightward direction.

I didn’t weigh in on this when the news broke between being on the road and, frankly, being caught rather unawares. (We are in contact with several guys in that part of the world on a regular basis and I didn’t think this was coming until after the next election, personally.) But now that it’s happened, I have to admit that I have more than a little trouble joining in on the general wave of celebration in the air. It might be easier if there was any clear indication of where things go from here.

S.E. Cupp put forward a summary of suggestions as to who the next Speaker might be and they all have their own aspects to recommend them. The names include the obvious choice of Kevin McCarthy as well as Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Steve Scalise and Peter Roskam. There are some good choices there whether you prefer someone more in the mold of the current Speaker or someone representative of the Tea Party wing.

But no matter which way you choose to go, how much will really change between now and January of 2017? I say this knowing the opposition it will raise here and I’ve heard the many complaints about Boehner, some of which are completely understandable for an impassioned conservative eager to see change. And yet I’ve been scanning various opinion articles on the subject and the one thing which is missing from the discussion, at least for me, is even the broad outlines of some new strategy which will substantially move the conservative ball down the field.

If we put forward McCarthy – a fine man who I interviewed a while back – is the win vs. loss column going to change significantly? The House still has to deal with not only the Senate and their perpetually stalled position short of 60 GOP votes, but the waiting veto pen of the President for any conservative legislation which we might wish to pass. It’s true that we could go the other way and have a speaker more along the lines of a strong Tea Party activist and the formula would change. What do we get then? Since the Democrats are never going to go along with any true conservative agenda (they are unwilling to even work with the moderates) you might manage to get more and longer government shutdowns when features like the defunding of Planned Parenthood come along. That’s a headlines grabber to be sure and can really fire up the base, but where does that get us once the lines start forming up to discuss all the people out of work and the failure of the government to even turn the lights on?

There are a lot of feel good moments in that scenario, but I still have to ask if it accomplishes either of two objectives:

  • Does it win more seats in Congress to be able to get legislation put through?
  • Does it move the needed segments among general election voters to put the Executive branch veto pen in the hands of a Republican?

If the answer to either of those question is “no” then I’m not sure what we’re winning beyond an excuse to hoist a few extra beers after work, and that doesn’t move the conservative agenda forward. Even with the unsatisfying, current state of affairs there is at least no danger of the Democrats pushing anything through legislatively. All they can do is stop the GOP. If they gain back any serious ground in Congress and keep the White House we’re dealing with a whole new set of problems.

I’m open to people offering other possibilities I’ve not considered, but thus far I’m left with a nagging suspicion. You might miss John Boehner more than you think once he’s gone.

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John Sexton 1:00 PM on February 01, 2023