Friday, December 21, 2012

Boehner Can't Deliver

The jig is up.  Boehner crashes and burns.  He can't deliver his own "Plan B."  As summarized by Jonathan Weisman in a frontpage, top-of-the-fold, right-hand-side story in this morning's paper (with the subhead "Embarrassing Setback"):
The refusal of a band of House Republicans to allow income tax rates to rise on incomes over $1 million came after Mr. Obama scored a decisive re-election victory campaigning for higher taxes on incomes over $250,000. Since the November election, the president’s approval ratings have risen, and opinion polls have shown a strong majority not only favoring his tax position, but saying they will blame Republicans for a failure to reach a deficit deal.

With a series of votes on Thursday, the speaker, who faces election for his post in the new Congress next month, had hoped to assemble a Republican path away from the cliff. With a show of Republican unity, he also sought to strengthen his own hand in negotiations with Mr. Obama. The House did narrowly pass legislation to cancel automatic, across-the-board military cuts set to begin next month, and shift them to domestic programs.

But the main component of “Plan B,” a bill to extend expiring Bush-era tax cuts for everyone with incomes under $1 million, could not win enough Republican support to overcome united Democratic opposition. Democrats questioned Mr. Boehner’s ability to deliver any agreement. 
The situation as it stands now is that Republicans are going home for Christmas.  Their conference is split.  Some want a compromise; others don't.  Boehner is crippled.  The way forward being talked about is for Boehner to bring something to the floor that could pass with Democratic support and some Republican votes.  It would be a kamikaze mission for Boehner who would likely lose his speakership as a result, but some see this as a choice Boehner is willing to make provided he gets an agreement he likes with Obama.  This from the conclusion of Weisman's story:

“The math changes” with a bipartisan deal, said Representative Steven C. LaTourette, a retiring Republican moderate from Ohio, who predicted Mr. Boehner could win at least half of House Republicans. “If there’s a negotiated settlement with the president, the speaker will put it on the floor and we’ll see where the chips fall.” 
I don't see it.  Nothing Boehner has done indicates that he would buck his caucus and work with the Democrats and Obama to seal a big deal.  What does worry me -- particularly after watching his last press conference -- is what Obama might concede to a wounded Boehner to get him to try a kamikaze mission.  Obama can be rolled. 

At this point I wouldn't bother with Boehner at all.  He's unreliable; he can't deliver.  He's a sound bite, a hallucination.  Let him go.  Let's go off cliff; let's reset the terms of the debate.  We'll deal with the Mad Mullahs in the New Year.

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