Boehner Agonistes

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

Suzy Khimm on the dilemma facing House Speaker John Boehner:

The House passed yet another short-term extension of the budget on Tuesday. But John Boehner faced a revolt by 54 Republicans who voted against the bill for not going far enough to slash spending, effectively forcing the GOP Speaker to rely on Democratic votes for the stop-gap measure to pass. As Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler explains, the vote now puts Boehner between a rock and a hard place: either he makes concessions to Democrats to pass a final budget, risking provoking greater fury from the tea party right, or he gives in to the GOP’s right flank—risking a government shutdown, as the Democratic Senate is unlikely to pass any bill that guts spending to satisfy hard-line conservatives.

I think Boehner’s problem here is pretty obvious, so there’s no point in belaboring it. The more interesting question is: which way does he jump?

My guess is that he sides with the tea partiers and forces a government shutdown. I don’t have any special insight here, just a feeling that, in the end, the hardcore right holds the whip hand in the Republican Party these days. If this is correct, though, it leads to a second question: how does this end? Obviously Republicans can’t keep the government shut down forever, and eventually this means that Obama will win some kind of compromise and it will get passed by a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans. The tea partiers will lose.

Given that this almost has to be the case, wouldn’t it make more sense for Boehner to compromise in the first place and avoid the humiliation of giving in down the road? In a rational world, sure. But in the tea party universe, he can’t. The forces working here will force Boehner into the worst of both worlds: he won’t assert control over the tea party faction from the start, which is bad, and then he’ll end up caving in to Democrats a few weeks or months down the road, which is worse.

But maybe I’m missing something here. Is there some other scenario for Boehner that works out better for him?

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.