Speaker of the House John Boehner
Olivier Douliery, MCT
Boehner cannot afford to defy conservative bloc
- Article by: Paul Kane
- Washington Post
- October 3, 2013 - 12:29 AM
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has at his disposal the political tools to reopen the government at a moment’s notice. But he would have to rely on an uneasy coalition of Democrats and a few moderate Republicans to pass a bill to fund federal agencies and national parks for the next six weeks. Such a move could provide a political escape hatch for Republicans who have been shouldering much of the public blame for the shutdown.
But Boehner is stuck.
A host of dynamics in the GOP have forced him to align himself with a camp of hard-core conservatives who, for much of the past three years, have defied him on one vote after another. Boehner’s unyielding position on the six-week government funding bill, which the Senate passed, is a testament to the power of that conservative bloc and a concession to its members. The insurgents are now his palace guards.
The speaker’s closest allies say he cannot afford to defy those on his right flank by ending the shutdown with largely Democratic votes. Doing so would undermine his position among his members going into negotiations over raising the federal debt limit.
Within the increasingly right-leaning GOP caucus, Boehner might survive one big vote that relied heavily on Democratic support. But two important votes with mostly Democratic backing would leave the speaker on political life support.
Democrats are furious about Boehner’s refusal to abandon the “Weird Caucus,” as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has dubbed the House conservatives.
Boehner’s hard line has been surprising to friends as well as foes, especially the conservatives — as many as two dozen of whom once plotted to overthrow him as speaker. “We’re more united in the conference now than we’ve ever been,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. Eighteen months ago, the speaker “couldn’t pick me out of a lineup,” he said. “He now blows me kisses.”
© 2013 Star Tribune