Saturday, December 24, 2011

End Of The Road For Boehner?


If 2012 sees the ouster of John Boehner as Speaker of the House, it won't be the first time Republicans have kicked him out of a leadership role. In the summer of 1997 Boehner, then chairman of the Republican Conference, worked with Bill Paxton, Dick Armey and Tom DeLay to oust Speaker Gingrich. But when it was decided Paxton would be the next Speaker, Armey ratted out the conspirators and the coup failed. Two years earlier, Boehner had been saved by Gingrich after he had been caught distributing tobacco industry bribes on the House floor (video below) but he didn't save his ass in 1998 when Republicans decided Boehner should take the fall for GOP losses in the midterms.

Boehner had a big comeback when DeLay was forced to resign as majority leader after he was indicted on criminal charges. Boehner was elected leader over the equally corrupt DeLay junior partner in crime, Roy Blunt. But now extremists in the Republican caucus want to kick him to the curb over the kerfuffle he presided over regarding the beating Republicans took with the payroll tax dispute.
After Boehner unveiled the last-minute deal with Republican rank-and-file late Thursday in a curt conference call, members were incensed.

"He may have a hard time keeping his speakership after this," one GOP lawmaker said. "He's got a big problem when he comes back."

Other members said they felt "hung out" by the party leadership, claiming Boehner cut a deal they could not support.

One source close to Boehner told Fox News in an email, "I fear he may be ousted in '12."

Republicans had wanted to reject the Senate's two-month extension bill and instead press for immediate negotiations on a yearlong package. Democrats wanted the House to accept the Senate-passed bill immediately and agree to negotiate on a longer package first thing in 2012.

For all intents and purposes, Democrats got their way.

The disappointment for House Republicans-- particularly freshman Tea Party-aligned Republicans-- follows a difficult year, one marked by mostly symbolic stands on everything from regulation to health care to spending and taxes. Tea Party leaders outside Washington had earlier raised questions about Boehner's leadership during the chaotic debt ceiling debate, though Republicans were able to extract cuts from that debate.

Cantor, his chief lieutenant, is plotting behind the scenes and waiting to make his move when he has a majority of the caucus behind him. It was interesting that though many of the most extremist Republicans complained bitterly-- we focused on whiny Florida nutcase Allen West Friday-- not a single one was man enough to oppose the unanimous consent agreement Boehner shoved down their throats. All it would have taken was one, just one. But there wasn't one who was man enough to stand up and say no. According to the L.A. Times, another dissenter was deranged (some say psychotic) teabagger Tim Huelskamp.
Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, for one, said he considered returning to Washington to object-- thereby blocking the House from passing it by unanimous consent-- but realized he did not have time to travel from Kansas.

"I'm disappointed in leadership. The freshman class came to change Washington, to make it more principle-based. But this is just more of the same decision-making based on political expediency," Huelskamp said.

When the recess ends, "I think you're going to see us question every strategic decision. I'll think we'll be saying, 'Their strategy didn't work for us last year; why would it this year?'" he said.

..."You know what happens in a crowd situation, whether it's six people or 600 at a football game, and people start booing and moving in a certain direction," said Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, who described the GOP opposition to the deal as a spontaneous "Hell, no!" "Sometimes you just can't stop it, and I think that happened."

Yet the GOP's entrenched opposition was not helping the party in opinion polls, which showed Obama making headway with his call to save the tax cut. Republican senators, who have to consider the wishes of voters in entire states, not districts, lashed out at their House counterparts. The pressure grew on Boehner to consider what's best for the party instead of what his tea-party-influenced faction wanted.

Boehner's leverage is limited. The House has banned earmarks, nearly erasing the practice of rewarding loyalists with federal dollars for specific projects. Now a speaker is left trying to persuade with kindness and a strong argument.

"It doesn't cost anything to be nice. That's a Boehnerism," said Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), a Boehner ally.

In a conference call with Republicans to discuss the temporary deal Thursday night, Boehner was firm in not allowing challenges from his caucus. Some lawmakers remain opposed, but more and more had realized it would be a political mistake to let the tax break expire.

"I think that Boehner got it," said John Feehery, a consultant and former GOP leadership aide. "I think he decided that he wasn't going to walk himself off a cliff."



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