I Feel Bad for John Boehner

Yeah, that’s something I never thought I’d say. But John Boehner’s job as Speaker of the House has been made absolutely impossible by the 80-100 far-right ideologues that were elected in his party in 2010 by the Tea Party movement, legislators who are completely fanatical and utterly oblivious to political reality. They are demanding a government shutdown if Obama does not agree to defund the Affordable Care Act, which simply is not going to happen. Ezra Klein explains what happened last week:

1) House Republicans pulled their bill to fund the government. The House was expected to vote Wednesday on a bill to continue funding the federal government. The initial whip count showed the bill 18 votes short of passage, so the vote didn’t happen. Why is the bill 18 votes short of passage? Obamacare, of course.

2) The GOP’s small Obamacare problem. The vote was delayed because the House GOP can’t decide on what to do about Obamacare. Hardcore conservatives want to refuse to fund the government as long as any of that funding goes to Obamacare — which is to say, they want to shut down the government over Obamacare. This is a fight that House leadership believes they will lose, and lose very badly.

So Team Boehner tried to finesse it. The funding bill required a vote on defunding Obamacare. But House conservatives quickly realized that they would lose the vote in the Senate and the result would be the federal government would get funded, and Obamacare would be funded along with it. So they turned on the bill, and, fearing for its passage, House leadership delayed the vote.

Boehner has very little control over about 40% of his own caucus and those legislators have no grasp whatsoever of reality. They will be more than happy to continue tilting at the Obamacare windmill, watch the government shut down and take the full brunt of public anger when that happens. And those people are so safely ensconced in the Fox News/talk radio bubble that they may genuinely think that the public wants them to do it. But Klein says this may actually be the best thing that could happen:

A government shutdown wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It’s breaching the debt ceiling that would be a disaster. There are two fiscal crack-ups on offer this fall. One is a government shutdown. That’s bad, but it’s not a catastrophe. The other is breaching the debt ceiling. That’s a complete and utter catastrophe.

The timeline here is cold and unforgiving: Absent action, the government shutdown will happen at the end of this month. The debt ceiling could collapse as soon as Oct. 18.

If the GOP needs to lose a giant showdown in order to empower more realistic voices and move forward, it’s better that showdown happens over a government shutdown then a debt-ceiling breach. A government shutdown is highly visible and dramatic, but it won’t actually destroy the economy. So an “optimistic” case might be that there’s a shutdown for the first few days of October, the GOP gets creamed in public opinion, the hostage-taking strategies of the party’s right flank are discredited, and Washington is at a much better equilibrium by the time the debt ceiling needs to be raised.

And yes, I realize that naming that tornado of lunacy the “optimistic” outcome is enough to make anyone pessimistic about the state of American politics. Good. You should be pessimistic about the state of American politics.

I’m cynical enough, however, to think that the extremists in the House Republican caucus are disconnected from reality enough that even if this political ass-kicking happens just the way Klein thinks it would (and I agree with him on how it would play out), it will do little to change their minds about it all. They live on Planet Wingnuttia, not on earth with the rest of us.

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  • I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him. From what I have read, he changed the way bills are voted on from the previous Republican speakers. Apparently it used to be a bill that would get a majority of GOP votes could make it to the floor. Boehner’s policy, on the other hand, is that only bills that can pass with republican votes only (i.e. a vast majority of the caucus) get voted on. 40% opposition is insurmountable opposition in that scheme.

  • busterggi

    I can’t feel sorry for a saw or screwdriver so why feel sorry for another tool?

  • cptdoom

    Remember those of us who live on the last Plantation, Washington DC, lose key services like garbage pick up, if Boner, et al, decide to shut down the government, so it’s not exactly benign.

  • How sorry should I feel?

    Fuck.John.Boehner.With a chainsaw, a rusty, sputtering, dull-ass chainsaw, one that was used to cut through re-bar and shit at Chernobyl.

  • Michael Heath

    I have zero sympathy for Speaker Boehner. He and the entire GOP now rejects the positions of experts and instead use arguments friendly with their know-nothing bigoted misinformed Christianist base. The Tea Partiers are merely demanding the entire party put their money where their party’s monolithic mouth has now been since Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House.

    The Tea Partiers are to Republicans what Fred Phelps is to a standard-issue U.S. Fox News watching conservative Christian. The formers merely demand their groups act in a manner consistent with the dogma they promote.

  • “Yeah, that’s something I never thought I’d say.”

    Excuse my language, but that’s the most fucking idiotic admission I’ve heard in a while. This is the same John Boehner who put Obamacare repeal votes on the floor forty two times. The Establishment fuels the Tea Party. He’s not a bystander; he’s an instigator. Fuck him. Fuck the GOP. And God help America.

  • eric

    Never underestimate the loonies or true believers. If there’s a huge backlash about shutting down the government, only a few of them are going to switch:

    1. Some won’t care; they’ll stick with their strategy.

    2. The ones who value reelection over strategy and think they can get reelected may flip.

    3. The ones who don’t think they can get reelected after such a terrible decision become loose cannons.

  • John Pieret

    I Feel Bad for John Boehner

    As others have said, I don’t. He and the Republican Party chose to ride this tiger in order to take over the House. When riding a tiger, the dismount is always the hardest part.

  • marcus

    Modus, I.. I… I’ve never seen you break character before. It’s kind of hot.

    (And I agree with everyone who thinks any kind of sympathy is wasted on that asshole.) Boehner stood in line and paid good money for that ticket, he didn’t have to. Now ride that tiger you fucking crybaby!

  • marcus “Modus, I.. I… I’ve never seen you break character before.”

    I didn’t break character. That was a rarely required version of the standard character; ideologically flipped, but still pointing out something stupid in the same style (or character) of the person or group saying the stupid thing. Since it was a liberal saying something dumb, it required me to adopt a liberal character. Hence the cussing. And the facts.

    “It’s kind of hot.”

    Obviously. I’m the total package.

  • marcus

    MO@10 Obviously.

  • ““It’s kind of hot.”

    Obviously. I’m the total package.”


    I see your gravatar and I think, beads, beaches, Bolero!

  • laurentweppe

    those legislators have no grasp whatsoever of reality

    You’re wrong: they have a very good drasp of reality: they rationality concluded that since their districts were gerrymandered to guaranty that the population of rich kids’ lackeys always outweight the amount of plebeans willing to vote for someone else’s, they can sabotage their country’s economy with little fear of retaliation.

  • pocketnerd

    Thus spake ZaraBrayton:

    They will be more than happy to continue tilting at the Obamacare windmill, watch the government shut down and take the full brunt of public anger when that happens.

    (Emphasis mine.)

    No, they will not. As with every other catastrophe caused by their deliberate misgovernance, the Tea Party will blame Obama. The elephant echo chamber will froth and fulminate about it for weeks, using carefully-crafted dogwhistles, until a significant fraction of the electorate really believe Obama caused the shutdown or blew the debt ceiling.

    Controlling the narrative means never, ever needing to admit fault or say you’re sorry.

  • bushrat

    As an outsider I look at American politics in the last 20-30 years with mixture of fascination and terror. It’s like watching the fall of the Roman Empire.

  • typecaster

    bushrat – I could only wish. The Roman Empire took centuries to fall in the West, and nearly a millennium in the East. There are days when I think we’ll be at full Sack-of-Rome in a decade.

    Oh, and fuck John Boehner. There’s never actually a bad time to say that.

  • laurentweppe

    @ bushrat

    Naaaah, the Roman Empire fell because its elites had grown so corrupt and complacent that they couldn’t fucking feed their populace anymore. It’s not impossible that the american upper-class has become as vicious and inept that the roman aristocracy of yore, but the progress in technology and especially agriculture mean that the USA is still able to feed its plebs