With just a matter of days until the U.S. government defaults for the first time in history, Speaker John Boehner caved to the right of his Republican caucus over the weekend, shedding the elder statesman role he had started to assume and signaling he will not support a real bargain on raising the debt limit:
House Speaker John Boehner, under pressure from the right and facing resistance from his own deputies, backed away Saturday from a bold $4 trillion deficit-reduction package that he once hoped would resolve the August debt ceiling crisis and give a shot in the arm to a lagging economy.
Tax policy disputes were at the center of the collapse, including differences with the White House over President Barack Obama’s demand that future tax reforms must maintain or increase the progressivity of the tax code. But for days Boehner has been under relentless pressure from conservatives to step away from the deal, which Saturday’s Wall Street Journal editorial writers dubbed “Boehner’s Obama Gamble.”
Perhaps he realized that the deal in play would have effectively removed spending from the table in the 2012 presidential race, and chose to keep what he sees as a winning campaign issue in the public debate.
But in so doing Boehner lost his chance to leave an indelible mark as a Republican who puts the country’s finances before politics. He may not get another such opportunity.