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“Boehner’s Pointless Leadership”: Wasting Everybody’s Time, He Has No One To Blame But Himself

House Speaker John Boehner needs to decide whether he wants to be remembered as an effective leader or a befuddled hack. So far, I’m afraid, it’s the latter.

Boehner’s performance last week was a series of comic pratfalls, culminating Friday in a stinging rebuke from the House Republicans he ostensibly leads. Boehner (R-Ohio) wasn’t asking for much: three weeks of funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which was hours from shutting down. He came away, humiliated, with just seven days’ worth of operating money for the agency charged with keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks.

By any standard, the whole situation is beyond ridiculous. The government of the world’s leading military and economic power cannot be funded on a week-to-week basis. There’s no earthly excuse for this sorry spectacle — and no one to blame but Boehner.

As everyone knows, the speaker is being stymied by far-right conservatives who insist on using the Homeland Security funding measure as a vehicle to protest President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. And as everyone except those far-right conservatives knows, this is a self-defeating exercise in utter futility. The Senate won’t pass these immigration provisions. The president won’t sign them into law. For the House conservatives, this is not a winnable fight.

Boehner knows this. He also knows that the sprawling government department in charge of airport security, border protection and a host of other vital tasks has to be funded. And he knows that while failing to pass an appropriations bill would impact many Homeland Security functions, the agency charged with implementing Obama’s immigration orders — the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — gets about 95 percent of its funding from application fees, meaning it would be largely unaffected.

Finally, Boehner knows that a clean Homeland Security funding bill without the ridiculous immigration measures would surely pass the House. But he has refused to do his duty and bring such a bill to the floor.

We’re supposed to feel sorry for him. We’re supposed to boo-hoo about the fact that his majority refuses to fall in line — and might even take away his gavel if he dares to face reality. Mr. Speaker, would you please get over yourself?

When Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held that job, she faced a similar impasse in 2007 over a funding bill for the Iraq War. Pelosi and most Democrats in Congress were, at that point, vocal opponents of the war. However, it was unthinkable to leave the troops without adequate funding. Democrats managed to push through both chambers an appropriations bill that specified a timetable for troop withdrawals. George W. Bush vetoed it.

So Pelosi swallowed hard and did what was necessary. She ended up bringing a funding bill — with no timetables — to the floor, and it was approved with the votes of Republicans and moderate Democrats. Pelosi voted against it, knowing it would pass.

I am the speaker of the House,” she told reporters that day. “I have to take into account something broader than the majority of the majority of the Democratic caucus.”

When do we hear words like that from Boehner? Never.

He does eventually bow to reality, but not before a lot of pointless brinkmanship that wastes everybody’s time. There are those who argue that standing with the far right in these lost causes somehow strengthens Boehner’s hand as speaker. Really? To me, he seems to be demonstrating, again and again, that every time the children throw a tantrum, they’ll get to stay up all night watching television and eating candy.

Immigration is a matter of principle for conservatives. Everyone gets that. But guess what? It’s also a matter of principle for liberals and moderates. Whose principles triumph depends on arithmetic: Who has the votes to pass a bill or override a veto? In this case, the winner is Obama.

What amazes me is that Boehner had the perfect opportunity to declare victory and get the Homeland Security funding mess behind him. Last month, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked Obama’s executive actions on immigration. I think it’s likely that the judge’s order will eventually be reversed. But in the meantime, Boehner could have said, “See, our view about presidential overreach has been vindicated. Now we’ll let the courts take it from here.”

But no. Instead, Boehner knowingly led House Republicans up a blind alley.

One major theme for the Democratic presidential nominee next year, obviously, will be sharp criticism of the GOP-controlled Congress. At this rate, the Republican nominee will be tempted to join in.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 2, 2015

March 16, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Slavishly Beholden To A Small, Vocal Wing Of The Party”: Can John Boehner’s Catastrophic Speakership Get Any Worse?

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is not very good at his job. Or maybe he just hates the Republican Party. It’s impossible to tell anymore.

On Tuesday, Boehner finally threw in the towel on his foolhardy attempt to block President Obama’s immigration order via a fight over Homeland Security funding. It was a doomed attempt from the start, premised as it was on the belief that Democrats would magically give in to his demands. In the end, Boehner admitted a DHS shutdown was “simply not an option” and accepted the Senate’s bipartisan bill to fully fund DHS.

So what did Boehner accomplish from all this? Aside from placating his caucus’ insatiable right flank for a few months, nothing.

The DHS funding gambit was an exercise in cynicism from the start, and a transparent one at that. Boehner insisted for weeks that blame for a DHS shutdown should lie with Senate Democrats. But polls showed that a significant majority of Americans would have blamed Republicans. Even Fox News didn’t buy it.

By picking the losing fight anyway, Boehner once again painted his party as obstinate and clueless, and himself as slavishly beholden to a small, vocal wing of the party. It could have been worse. Had Boehner really allowed a DHS shutdown to occur — and weeks ago he said he was “certainly” willing to let that happen — it would have been a PR disaster for the party. Terrorism in the Middle East and Europe have dominated headlines for months, and a Homeland Security shutdown would have given Democrats a golden opportunity to assail Republicans for leaving America vulnerable.

Speaking of PR disasters, Tuesday also saw another calamity of Boehner’s creation, when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a divisive speech to Congress blasting the Obama administration’s ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran. The speech was condemned as a partisan stunt, in large part because Boehner invited Netanyahu without first informing the White House. Many Democrats refused to attend, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who did go, came away calling it an “insult to the intelligence of the United States.”

Tuesday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Boehner, but it was only the latest dismal chapter in his disastrous speakership.

Since grabbing the Speaker’s gavel, Boehner has been unable to figure out how to get around his party’s right wing. In every battle, Boehner must weigh the demands of an obstreperous cadre that considers “compromise” a four-letter word against a course of rational governance. And when the hardliners’ demands win out, Boehner forges ahead with no game plan to extricate his party from disaster. The fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling standoff, the government shutdown, the DHS fight, and on and on — all are products of Boehner’s floundering political machinations.

At times, Boehner’s stumbles have blown up in epic fashion. On multiple occasions, he canceled votes at the last minute when it became clear he lacked the votes to avoid humiliating revolts from his own caucus. In his race to please the base, he couldn’t even sue Obama properly, as two law firms quit his long-promised litigation over the Affordable Care Act.

Boehner’s bumbling makes sense to a point. In limp fits of self-preservation, he kowtows to the right before making a show of grudgingly dealing with Democrats. This would be perfectly understandable if not for the fact that Boehner keeps harming his own party in the process. The government shutdown torpedoed the GOP’s image. More petulant brinksmanship will only bring more of the same.

And to what end? Either Boehner truly believes he can stare Democrats into submission — and now that he’s formed a pattern of caving in fight after fight, there’s no reason why Dems would ever crack in the future — or he’s doing this all to save his own skin. Either he’s a horrible tactician, or a self-interested leader willing to save himself at his party’s expense.

In other words: Boehner is either terrible at his job, or he hates the GOP.


By: Jon Terbush, The Week, March 9, 2015

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Boehner’s Latest Humiliation”: Surrender; Government-By-Crisis Fails The GOP Again

Ever since Republicans first devised their ill-conceived plan to use funding for the Department of Homeland Security as a hostage in hopes of forcing President Obama to abandon his immigration policy, the gambit was doomed to eventual failure.

On Tuesday, the debacle reached its logical conclusion. Hours after Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) acknowledged defeat, the House of Representatives ended the game and passed a bill funding DHS through September, without preconditions. The bill passed the house 257 to 167, with just 75 Republicans joining the Democratic minority to keep the department open.

There was never any real doubt that this would be the outcome. Since the equally poorly-thought-out government shutdown of 2013, President Obama has made it clear that he will not give in to Republican attempts to use must-pass spending bills to blackmail him into dismantling his agenda. The Department of Homeland Security was always a poor target for a hostage, given its importance to national security — and the fact that shutting it down would do nothing to stop President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. And voters were always going to blame Republicans, not Democrats, for a crisis that the GOP created.

Still, House Republicans insisted on dragging the crisis out until the last second, and managed to undermine Speaker Boehner’s tenuous authority in the process. Yet again.

So will this latest humiliation convince Boehner and his caucus to rethink their strategy of government-by-crisis? It’s unlikely; if the “fiscal cliff,” the government shutdown, and repeated debt ceiling standoffs (among other House-made emergencies) didn’t change their course, there’s no reason to believe that the DHS near-shutdown will be different.

In related news, on Tuesday the Congressional Budget Office announced that the debt ceiling will have to be increased in October or November.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, March 3, 2015

March 6, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just Do It And Move On”: John Boehner Can’t Bring Himself To Rip Off The Band-Aid

Mitch McConnell knows what John Boehner doesn’t, namely that when you have to do something painful, it’s best to get it over with quickly. Rip off the Band-aid, chop the zombie-bite-infected leg off with one blow, just do it and move on. But we’re a day away from a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, and Boehner can’t bring himself to do it.

So here’s the current status. McConnell decided that the Senate would take two votes, one on a “clean” DHS funding bill—i.e., one without a rider reversing President Obama’s executive actions on immigration—and one addressing just those executive actions. That way DHS stays open, Republicans get to cast their symbolic vote against Obama, and everybody goes home. The funding bill is already moving through. And of course, Tea Partiers are outraged (here’s one colorful post from Erick Erickson entitled “Eunuch Mitch McConnell Squeals Like a Pig“). Which, I’m pretty sure, doesn’t bother McConnell all that much, because he knows what’s in his party’s interest and what isn’t.

Boehner is still saying “nuh-uh!” But to what end? What does dragging this out actually accomplish for him? Here’s a report from Politico:

Boehner is playing a game of political survival. Most of his inner circle knows that the House will be forced to swallow a clean DHS funding bill at some point. But if the speaker wants to keep conservatives from launching a rebellion, it may be too early to capitulate. Boehner is aware of the perilous situation he’s facing—which is why, in private conversations with lawmakers, he’s telling them to “stay tuned” without tipping his hand on his next move.

Speaking to his caucus Wednesday, Boehner said he hadn’t spoken to McConnell in two weeks, an apparent attempt to distance himself from the Senate GOP leader’s plan. It seemed to highlight what will likely be an unfolding dynamic in the coming Congress, particularly over fiscal matters: The Senate will be forced to cut deals on politically toxic issues, and Boehner will ultimately be forced to accept them in order to avoid potential crises.

So the outcome is inevitable, but Boehner seems to be operating on the assumption that if he holds out a while longer, the crazy caucus will be less angry with him. And when has that ever worked? We’ve been through this multiple times now, and at the end of it they dislike him just as much as they did at the beginning.

There are three things Boehner could be thinking. The first is that if there’s a partial shutdown, the administration will give in and undo Obama’s executive actions. No one is dumb enough to believe that. The second is that he or someone else will have an extraordinary flash of insight and devise a clever stratagem that will get the Republicans everything they want. That’s possible in theory, but highly unlikely to say the least. The third is that this shutdown fight will end the same way all the other shutdown fights ended: with Boehner giving in and allowing a vote on a bill to end the crisis, a bill that passes with the support of Democrats. He will be decried as a capitulator and a RINO, and nothing will have changed.

But is Boehner really in a “perilous situation”? The reason he’s still the speaker isn’t that he’s done such a masterful job of keeping Tea Partiers happy. It’s that nobody else wants the job. When he retained the position in January, 25 Republicans voted for somebody else, but the votes were entirely symbolic. There’s no other candidate, there’s no rebellion planned. He’s secure in his miserable position.

So really, Mr. Speaker, just rip off the Band-aid. Hold the vote to fund DHS. We all know how this ends.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor,  February 26, 2015

March 2, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, Immigration, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hey, Boehner; Show Some Stones For Once”: The Right Wing Is Toothless And Congress Is Essentially Leaderless

So here’s something I’ve often wondered over the last few years. What exactly would happen if John Boehner bucked the right-wingers in the House? You know—if he gave us one of those heroic Hollywood moments that we so long for in this sail-trimming city and gave a big speech about how he was putting principle ahead of politics and the consequences be damned.

You know what I think would happen? If, say, he followed Mitch McConnell’s lead and allowed a vote on a clean DHS-funding bill? After all the dust settled—nothing. Oh, the dust would fly to the heavens for a few days. Tea Partiers would scream about his betrayal. Rush Limbaugh and all the rest of them would fulminate. There’d be a few breathless stories about how his speakership was in mortal peril. And then, something else would happen in the news cycle, the intoxicating effect of the drug of munity would wear off, and we’d be back to exactly where we were before the dust went skyward.

We have a dysfunctional legislative system, and one of the hallmarks of a dysfunctional system—indeed the main hallmark of a dysfunctional system—is that no one is held accountable for anything they do. And there’s no reason to think Boehner would be held accountable by his right wing.

First of all, they don’t have the votes to oust him. In his last speakership election, 25 Republicans voted against him. That’s a chunk, but it’s a small chunk. And besides, who are they going to replace him with? Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who seems not able to count noses and who isn’t particularly well liked by his GOP colleagues? Majority Whip Steve Scalise, now branded as a white-supremacist sympathizer? One doesn’t expect much of today’s GOP, but I doubt very much that even this hardened assemblage would want to be led by a man with that charge hanging around his neck.

So the whole business is ridiculous. And in fact, if you look closely at the record, you see that Boehner has bucked his right wing. Although “bucked” isn’t really the right word, since to buck means to resist with some show of strength. Boehner never does that. What he does is that he hews to the right-wing line rhetorically for as long as he possibly can, and then, when it’s two minutes til midnight and it’s obvious to everyone that he has to bend, he bends. He did it on the debt ceiling. He does it on budget questions. And there’s always a great deal of sturm and drang, but soon enough, it’s back to business.

Think here about the famous Hastert Rule, that a Republican leader can’t bring anything to the floor that doesn’t have the support of a majority of the Republican majority. This has come up a number of times in the last four years, and always the line is: Oh my God, he can’t break the Hastert Rule! Dare he break the Hastert Rule? His speakership is in grave jeopardy if he breaks the Hastert Rule! No, Lord, not the Hastert Rule!!

Well, he’s broken the Hastert Rule three times. The first time was on the fiscal cliff negotiation at the beginning of 2013. On that one, 85 House Republicans voted for the compromise bill that emerged, and 151 of them voted against it. The second time was on Hurricane Sandy relief, which happened just a couple of weeks after the fiscal cliff vote. That time, 49 GOPers voted for the relief, and 179 against. And the third came a little more than a month later—two years ago tomorrow, in fact—when the House passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. That time, 87 Republicans voted aye, and 138 nay.

So look at that record. In two months’ time, Boehner violated the allegedly inviolate Hastert Rule three times. And what happened to him? Well, we’re still calling him Mr. Speaker, last I checked. The right wing has not mutinied. And in fact the dark little psychological secret is that the vast majority of them have no interest whatsoever in mutiny. It’s far better for business for them, back in the home districts, to be able to scream betrayal and present themselves to their rabid constituents, the kind who just might go organize themselves to find a primary challenger to run against them, as the true defenders of liberty against all the sell-outs and ideological harlots they have to contend with on a daily basis, Boehner included. Gower Champion couldn’t choreograph it any better.

If I’m right about all this, and I am, then the question is why Boehner can’t, just once, show some stones and say, at 10 or 15 minutes til midnight rather than the usual two, “Sorry, we’re gonna do the reasonable thing here, and save this other fight for another day?” Well, some have argued that it may be in this case that he doesn’t actually know whether he has the votes. But I think that’s a reach. He’s got 245 Republicans. There are 188 Democrats, presumably all of whom would vote for a clean bill. So he’d need about 30 Republicans to back a clean bill. If he can’t get a mere 15 percent of his caucus to vote for a clean bill, maybe he’s got no business being speaker anyway. That would mean breaking the Hastert Rule, but as we’ve seen, he’s paid no price for that in the past.

And look at what happened in the Senate after McConnell decided to be reasonable. The vote was 98-2! The holdouts were Jim Inhofe and Jeff Sessions. Ted Cruz voted for the clean bill! Mike Lee! Joni Ernst and all the new red-hots. McConnell called the radicals’ bluff, and they folded. I say there’s every reason to think that roughly the same thing would happen in the House.

It’s often said in Washington that Congress is held captive to the hard right. But that’s not it. Boehner could break that hold if he wanted to. So it’s not really the radicals who are to blame, but Boehner’s refusal to be their leader and tell them “this is the way it is.” That’s the one thing, as their leader, he’ll never do. You know—lead.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, February 27, 2015

March 1, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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