On the morning after the “fiscal cliff” crisis was averted with the House passing the Senate’s bill unamended, a strange item regarding Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appeared in a Politico insider wrap-up of the negotiations:
“Go f— yourself,” Boehner sniped as he pointed his finger at Reid, according to multiple sources present.
Reid, a bit startled, replied: “What are you talking about?”
Boehner repeated: “Go f— yourself.“
According to the Politico story, Boehner later bragged to fellow Republicans about the exchange. Why would the Speaker feel the need to brag about telling off Reid, publicizing what to many Americans would surely sound like embarrassing behavior? Hmm. Who would be impressed by childishly showing outward contempt for a major Democrat and then the even more immature act of boasting about it?
Could it be the exact folks the Speaker is having the hardest time corralling — the Tea Partiers in his caucus?
On Friday, January 3, the Speaker faces re-election, which would normally be a formality as his caucus only lost a handful of seats — despite receiving more than a million fewer total votes than Democratic candidates. But the “fiscal cliff” debate has exacerbated fissures in his party after — for the first time in nearly 20 years — tax rates are set to rise on the richest.
First Boehner couldn’t get a majority of his members to support his “Plan B,” which would have raised the rates on incomes over $1 million. Then he agreed to put whatever bill the Senate passed to a vote. When the bill came to the House with $600 billion in tax increases and under $20 billion in spending cuts, House Republicans revolted. They demanded that an amendment be added with $300 billion in spending cuts, which the Senate said would kill the bill. Among the revolting Republicans, and perhaps the most revolting, was House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).
Republicans eventually allowed a vote on the bill, violating the Hastert Rule that demands any bill to be considered have a majority of the majority party behind it. But most Republicans voted against the bill.
Wednesday morning, the anger from the right was palpable on sites such as Breitbart and Red State that cater to the party’s extremes.
DrudgeReport, possibly the most influential news site on the Internet, hosted a poll asking if Boehner should still be Speaker. A vast majority of hundreds of thousands of respondents said “nay.”
The only question is who would seriously challenge the Speaker. Cantor has been accused of angling for the spot. And Tuesday, when the House was about to blow up the “cliff” compromise, it seemed to be Cantor’s Machiavellian way to destroy Boehner. But Cantor allowed the vote and showed his contempt by voting no.
Wednesday the rep from Virginia got a huge boost from Chris Christie (R-NJ). The governor blasted Congress for not passing relief for the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. He blamed Speaker Boehner, who didn’t take four of his calls, for the inaction. But he absolved the Minority Leader.
But if Cantor makes his move and fails, his career would be maimed, if not ruined.
Tom Price (R-GA), whom Breitbart is featuring saying that the GOP needs a Speaker from a red state, lost his attempt to win a place in the caucus leadership just months ago, despite his support from Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Ryan is the one man who could easily replace Boehner — at least he was before he voted for the Senate’s “fiscal cliff” compromise on Tuesday evening. The House’s Budget Chairman and Boehner lieutenant is noted for his willingness to go with the establishment on key votes, such as Medicare D and TARP. Thus far it hasn’t hurt his career. But he obviously has bigger things in mind than being Speaker of the House.
The Speaker needs to win the a majority of the votes cast, and Boehner can only lose 17 votes without sending the vote to a second ballot, something that hasn’t happened since 1923. Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle reports that 20 Republican House members are willing to vote against the current Speaker, a report no one seems to be taking seriously.
If Boehner gets another term, it will likely be because he assures the most difficult members of his caucus that he will be more like them in future negotiations. And that’s terrible news for anyone who appreciates elected officials who govern in a manner that resembles that of an adult.