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“There’s Nothing But Chaos In The Republican Ranks”: GOP Leader Shocks Colleagues, Withdraws From Speaker’s Race

Thirteen days ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shocked the political world by announcing his plan to resign. This morning, Boehner’s successor followed up with a shock of his own.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has abruptly pulled out of the race for Speaker of the House on the same day that he was widely expected to be nominated for the position.

The nominating contest in the GOP conference set for Thursday afternoon in the House has been postponed.

There is a degree of irony to all of this: Benghazi didn’t bring down Hillary Clinton, but it did prevent Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker.

The California Republican faced two challengers for his party’s Speaker nomination, but by all appearances, he had the support he needed to go to the floor as his party’s official choice. As recently as last night, McCarthy’s bid was on track to move forward.

The problem was the looming floor vote on Oct. 29 – the opposition to his promotion from the far-right was significant and he faced a real challenge in pulling together 218 GOP votes.

Even if he prevailed, McCarthy would have immediately taken the gavel and become an even weaker Speaker than Boehner.

A week ago, the landscape seemed relatively clear. The GOP establishment had rallied behind McCarthy, and though there were some questions about the other top posts, we’d have a sense of the new Republican leadership team by this afternoon.

Now, however, there’s nothing but chaos in the Republican ranks. It’s reminiscent of late 1998, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) resigned in disgrace, and his successor, Speaker-designate Bob Livingston (R-La.), also had to resign in disgrace after a sex scandal came to light.

The difference now is, the only scandal is the radicalization of Republican politics.

So what happens now? All of the leadership elections that had been scheduled for today have been postponed. The date of the new elections is unclear. McCarthy reportedly intends to stay in Congress – indeed, he apparently wants to keep his Majority Leader position – though it seems everything is unsettled right now.

The party’s establishment will have to rally behind a new standard bearer, though no one has any idea who that might be. All eyes will, of course, quickly turn to Paul Ryan, but the far-right Wisconsin congressman reiterated again this morning that he does not want to be Speaker of the House.

Because House rules allow members to elect anyone for Speaker – including those who are not current lawmakers – don’t be too surprised if GOP officials start looking to potential leaders outside of Capitol Hill.

What’s more, let’s not discount the possibility that John Boehner himself may stick around, indefinitely, while the chaos continues, House Republicans turn on each other, the chamber unravels, and Congress struggles mightily to find a suitable leader.

Finally, I heard one rumor a short while ago, which is admittedly hard to believe, about some less-conservative Republicans turning to Democrats to try to elect a “coalition-style Speaker,” in a scheme that would disempower the chamber right-wing extremists.

It’s far-fetched, to be sure, but after the last 13 days, it’s now best to expect the unexpected.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | GOP, House Republican Caucus, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Nothing Less Than Total War Will Suffice”: Why Republicans Will Face The Same Disaster No Matter Who They Crown Speaker

Liberals and conservatives can agree on one thing about departing Speaker of the House John Boehner: He was terrible at his job.

Liberals look at how Boehner was yanked around by the reactionary extremists in his party, kept staging showdowns that never got the GOP any of what it sought, and couldn’t unify his caucus for anything more meaningful than 50 futile votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and say, “What a loser.” Conservatives look at how he failed to actually repeal the Affordable Care Act (or anything else), blinked when he stared down President Obama, and generally failed to “stand up” tall enough to cut the administration down to size, and think, “What a wimp.”

They may both be right, at least in part. But what Republicans probably don’t realize is that their next speaker probably won’t be able to do any better — not now, and not after the next president is elected.

Right now Republicans in the House are in the process of picking that speaker, and it has turned into a real contest. Up until a week ago it was assumed that Kevin McCarthy, Boehner’s second-in-command, would waltz into the job. But after he said what everyone knows to be true — that the purpose of the select committee on Benghazi is to do political damage to Hillary Clinton — Republicans whispered “Ixnay on the ooth-tray!” and began looking around for an alternative (it’s amazing what an effect one ill-considered remark can have). Into that breach stepped Jason Chaffetz, a young conservative from Utah who has been seen as an up-and-comer, but nobody thought would be contending for this job so soon.

Unlike any speaker in memory, neither McCarthy nor Chaffetz has been in Congress very long. McCarthy is in his fifth term, and Chaffetz is in his fourth (Boehner and his predecessor Nancy Pelosi had each served 10 terms before becoming speaker). Neither one of them is known as some kind of legislative wizard with the ability to keep his caucus together and shepherd difficult bills through the Congress. That’s partly because they haven’t had the chance, but the truth is it won’t matter.

Think about what the next speaker of the House is going to spend his time doing. Between now and January 2017, the answer is, not much. Boehner is hoping to strike a two-year budget deal on his way out that would mean no more threatened government shutdowns between now and the election, essentially saving the Republican Party from its own representatives in the House. If he succeeds, the next speaker will spend his time bringing up symbolic votes to satisfy the party’s right wing, and maybe starting a new investigation or two (the Select Committee on Why Hillary Clinton Is a Jerk, perhaps?). But he won’t be passing any actual legislation.

That’s because the tea partiers who helped push Boehner out and whose assent is needed for the next speaker to win the office don’t want any legislating, and they don’t want any deal-making. This was what Boehner discovered, to his endless dismay. For that portion of the caucus, many of whom got elected since 2010, nothing less than total war against the opposition will suffice. That war isn’t something you do in order to achieve a policy victory, it’s the whole point of being in Congress in the first place. The measure of success is whether you “stood up” with sufficient strength and resolve, not whether you actually accomplished anything.

If a Democrat becomes president in 2016, that will not change. The vast majority of those House members come from safe Republican seats; the only way they’ll leave is if they lose a primary to someone even more doctrinaire. So we’d have four more years of what we’ve had lately: an endless stalemate punctuated by the occasional crisis, accompanied by conservative cries that the GOP leadership is weak and ineffectual.

And what if a Republican wins the 2016 election? Although it might seem like it would be an orgy of bill-passing as Republicans finally get the chance to do whatever they want without fear of a presidential veto, it might turn out not to be so easy, and not only because Democrats could still filibuster bills in the Senate. Remember how complicated it was for Barack Obama to pass the stimulus, Wall Street reform, and the Affordable Care Act? That was when he had large majorities in both houses. They got a great deal done, but it was a struggle every step of the way.

When your party can ostensibly pass whatever laws it wants, intra-party divisions come to the fore as members try to shape the legislation to their liking and realize that they can extract concessions by being difficult. When there’s actually a real accomplishment in the offing — let’s say a tax cut, or a big increase in military spending, or a restriction on abortion rights — the obstruction of a few members can have real consequences, and that will give every rump faction the ability to extort real concessions to whatever it is they want. The caucus could be riven by divisions between the extremely conservative members and the incredibly conservative members, in which case you’d need a speaker with some deal-making skills.

And in that period of 2009 to 2010, Democrats in Congress were led (and still are) by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, strong leaders with decades of legislative experience who understood how to corral and move the caucuses they led. Republicans may not like them, but nobody thinks they aren’t very good at what they do, particularly Pelosi. On the Republican side you might say the same about Mitch McConnell in the Senate, but would Kevin McCarthy or Jason Chaffetz be able to be as effective a leader in keeping their caucus together as Pelosi has been? Now consider that the Republican House can’t stay together when it has zero chance of passing anything into law. Just imagine what a mess it will be when there’s actually something at stake.

I could be wrong, but I’d be surprised if either McCarthy or Chaffetz is talking a lot to their colleagues about the complexities and difficulties 2017 and beyond could pose with a Republican president, and how their particular skills and experience will help them navigate that minefield. If they are, then they’re more forward-looking than I imagine.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 6, 2015

October 7, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Republican Caucus, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why Kevin McCarthy Will Be Worse Than Boehner”: Boehner Isn’t Going To Be Holding The Worst Speaker Title For Very Long

John Boehner has been far and away the worst speaker of the House of Representatives in many decades, presiding over the two least productive Congresses in modern American history, overseeing those endless and ridiculous Obamacare repeal votes, and most of all not having the stones to bring the immigration bill to the floor. It would have passed any day he chose to let that happen, which at least would have given the newspapers one positive item to include in the lead paragraph of his obituary when the time comes.

But from the looks of things, Boehner isn’t going to be holding the worst speaker title for very long.

There was a time in this country when the speaker of the House thought of himself more as a servant of the entire country. He’s called speaker of the House, after all, not speaker of a certain party in the House. He was third in line for the presidency, which meant he needed to hold the idea in the back of his mind that someday, he might be called upon to run the country under circumstances that would inevitably be tragic, thus requiring that he not be seen as too partisan a figure.

It was norms and traditions like these that led Democratic Speaker John McCormack, who ran the House in the 1960s, to say after Richard Nixon’s election that “direct confrontation between Congress and the president is going to be harmful to the country and should be avoided if possible.”

Boehner hardly had a single McCormack cell in his body. But compared to Kevin McCarthy, he’s a virtual David Broder. You know of course by now what McCarthy said about the true nature of the Benghazi committee. But what you may not know, if you’re just relying on news accounts that snipped the quote, is the full context in which he said it. Usually, the full context of comments reproduced in news snippets has a way of making them not as bad as they first seemed. But here, the context makes McCarthy’s words far worse. See for yourself:

HANNITY: But in February didn’t you guys end up funding it, you passed the “crum-nibus,” you gave up your leverage.

MCCARTHY: No, no. Sean, no, because the courts had put a stay on that. So there was no funding going towards that. The question I think you really want to ask me is, how am I going to be different?

HANNITY: I love how you asked my questions. But go ahead, that is one of my questions. Go right ahead.

MCCARTHY: I knew you’d want to ask it. What you’re going to see is a conservative speaker that takes a conservative Congress that puts a strategy to fight and win.

And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened—

In other words, he and Hannity were having an exchange about substance—about how Republicans had failed, from Hannity’s point of view, to control spending, defund Obamacare, defund the president’s executive orders on immigration. Then McCarthy volunteers that he will be different. And how will he be different? Not by controlling spending or defunding Obamacare or Obama’s immigration initiatives. By being more political and more partisan!

And anyway, why is the Benghazi committee a relevant example of how McCarthy is going to be different from Boehner? Has he been some secret power behind the whole thing from the start, like Akim Tamiroff in The Great McGinty, calling the shots, telling Trey Gowdy whom to depose and badger with nine hours’ worth of questions that have nothing to do with the deaths of Chris Stevens and other three Americans? It would be very interesting, I think, for America’s taxpayers, on the hook here for $4.6 million so far, to know whether the next speaker has been the Rasputin behind Gowdy’s little throne.

That McCarthy would say this reveals to us that he doesn’t remotely think that the American people are a constituency with which he need concern himself. The constituencies that concern him are Hannity, Fox viewers, and conservatives. Not even all Republicans, some of whom are reasonable human beings who do not wish for perpetual political war. Only all highly partisan conservatives. This is the man who’ll be presiding over the people’s chamber. People think Donald Trump is a farce, and he is, but he’s no worse a farce than this.

Meanwhile, what can Hillary Clinton and the Democrats do with this egregious statement? Probably not as much as they’d like, alas. Wednesday, in the wake of McCarthy’s comments (uttered Tuesday night), there was some discussion among Benghazi committee Democrats about whether they shouldn’t just end the whole charade, or at least their part in it, by boycotting any remaining proceedings.

That sounds great on the surface, but remember that Clinton is testifying on Oct. 22. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, is apparently of the view that leaving Clinton to fend for herself in a committee room full of Republicans is a really bad idea, so he’s going to make sure the Democrats are there that day to pull the reins on Republicans when they start galloping off into fantasy land. A boycott would be emotionally satisfying, but Cummings is right. Clinton has to be broadly seen as winning that showdown to start putting this mess behind her, and she probably can’t do that without Democrats in the room.

So my guess is that McCarthy’s statement may not do the damage to him or his party that it so richly deserves to. But if you’ve read this deeply into this column, I hope that you, at least, care. This is not just about Clinton and the next election. This is about customs and norms that once kept this government functioning (admittedly sometimes better than other times, but functioning).

But those customs and norms have been under assault for two decades. Newt Gingrich wounded them. Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, that great American now desperately negotiating a plea bargain so that Americans never learn the details about his career as a “wrestling coach,” killed them. John Boehner pissed on their corpse. And Kevin McCarthy looks like the guy who’s going to set the corpse on fire.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Boehner Failed”: No Particular Genius Is Required To Succeed In Politics, But You Do Have To Be Able To Count

Nothing so became John Boehner’s tenure as Speaker as his manner of leaving it. Subjectively speaking, he has never appeared to believe very much of the arrant nonsense his position required him to utter. An old-school politician who literally grew up working in the family bar, his conservatism is of the traditional Midwestern kind — more Bob Dole, say, than Ted Cruz.

More process and negotiation, that is, than ideological certitude and visionary schemes to purge the nation of sin. To be blunt about it, very few Roman Catholics and none who grew up in a bar could ever believe such a thing possible. Unafraid to let his emotions show as Pope Francis urged lawmakers to compromise for the common good, Boehner may have, in that moment, recognized his own complete failure.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Boehner expressed his frustration in theological terms. Asked if the fundamentalist-dominated Tea Party faction, which views him as a sellout to President Obama, was unrealistic, he almost shouted.

“Absolutely they’re unrealistic!” he said. “But the Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean, this whole idea that we were going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013, this plan never had chance.”“But over the course of the August recess in 2013, and the course of September,” Boehner added, “a lot of my Republican colleagues who knew it was a fool’s errand, really they were getting all this pressure from home to do this. And so we have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they… KNOW are never going to happen.”

No, and shutting the government down in 2015 to get rid of Planned Parenthood has even less of a chance of accomplishing anything other than pointless melodrama, TV face time for the aforementioned Sen. Cruz, and the near-certain election of a Democratic president.

The late Robert F. Kennedy once told a friend of mine that no particular genius was required to succeed in politics, but you do have to be able to count. It’s because Boehner understands that, yet seemingly lacked the intestinal fortitude to abandon the so-called “Hastert Rule,” that his speakership came to such a sad end.

What with Hastert nearing an ignominious denouement of his own — the former Speaker’s lawyers are reportedly negotiating a guilty plea involving hush money paid to a young man he’d sexually molested as a high school coach — you’d think Republicans would want to avoid the phrase, if not the practice.

The act of refusing to let the House vote on any bill not supported by a majority of Republicans not only placed party above country, it also permitted Tea Party hotheads to paralyze the government. In consequence, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin points out, a 2013 immigration reform bill favored by GOP leadership that passed 62-38 in the Senate never even came to a vote in the House.

Supported by such luminaries as Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio, the bill would clearly have passed had Boehner allowed a vote — good for the nation, good for the Republican Party. Alas, to keep his job, Boehner caved to Tea Party nativists. In consequence, Toobin writes, “he suffered the fate of all those who give in to bullies; he was bullied some more.”

This year it was the highway bill — another popular, badly needed, job-intensive piece of legislation also opposed by the Tea Party. The tyranny of the minority, you might call it. If they had their way, we’d all have to buy tractors and bush-hog our own roads.

Instead, Boehner permitted the innumerate faction something like 60 votes to repeal Obamacare — each as futile and pointless as the last, and the very definition of “things they know are never going to happen.”

Another consequence of Boehner’s failure, it should be said, is the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, the blowhard billionaire who appears to have convinced millions of voters who failed to master 8th grade civics that he can solve the nation’s toughest problems by yelling at them.

In stepping down, Boehner secured the agreement of his GOP antagonists to vote for a “clean” continuing resolution that would keep the government funded through mid-December with no demands to defund Planned Parenthood — the latest extreme right publicity stunt. After that, all bets are off.

“November and December are going to be like Dante’s Inferno around here,” New Jersey Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. told the New York Times.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows that Republican voters oppose shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood by 56-36 percent. Americans overall oppose the idea by 69-23 percent.

All that’s needed is a Speaker strong enough to put country above party.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, September 30, 2015

October 1, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Brief Respite From Madness”: Two Problems With The Boehner Atonement Theory

So even as laurels continue to be thrown towards John Boehner on the theory that he’s sacrificed his career to prevent a government shutdown–and hey! maybe save Eximbank and the Highway Bill!–a more serious look at what’s likely to happen next is far less inspiring. The premier budget wizard, Stan Collender, issued this judgment at Politico:

House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation last Friday steeply reduced the likelihood there will be a government shutdown this week but precipitously increased the possibility of a shutdown in December.

And the idea that some sort of Era of Good Feelings Sayanora Tour for Boehner will enable the enactment of long-stalled agenda items of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn’t necessarily all that viable either, because the House isn’t the only problem:

[E]ven if the rumors are true about Boehner being willing to work with Democrats to deal with a wide variety of legislative issues (Export-Import Bank, highway trust fund, full-year CR, tax extenders) before he leaves at the end of October, it’s not clear that McConnell will have the political freedom or votes to move these bills. It’s not hard to imagine Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) setting up the equivalent of a campaign office on the Senate floor and, along with other hard-line conservatives, attempting to prevent anything from passing.

And once Boehner really is gone, there’s no reason to assume the atmosphere in the House will get any less poisonous, particularly if conservatives secure an Enforce the Hastert Rule Pledge from the new leadership team:

[D]on’t expect the next speaker to be any more successful at taming the GOP’s tea party wing when the short-term CR expires in December. The new speaker and the rest of the leadership team will just be learning their jobs as they face the toughest issues in the most difficult political environment of the year. It’s possible—and maybe even likely—that they’ll fare worse than Boehner.

So the John Boehner Atonement Theory I’ve been mocking every chance I get is wrong in two respects. First, the man hasn’t sacrificed a damn thing; he gets to spend a year at his Florida golf resort condo before becoming one of the richest lobbyists ever. Second, he didn’t buy his party much of anything other than a brief respite from madness.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 29, 2015

September 30, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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