Congressional Republicans Implode

On Thursday I spent most of the day storm watching, and being awed by the beauty of Mother Nature.

But the news from Washington was really quite remarkable too, and even friends from around Madison when on the phone were commenting not only about the blizzard, but the implosion of congressional Republicans.

I had truly felt that Speaker Boehner had made strides in getting control of his caucus, and showing some real leadership in the weeks following the election.

But when he introduced ‘Plan B’ I knew that he was caving too much away from pragmatic leadership which I think his party needs.

The results yesterday were simply embarrassing for the Republican Party.

So what now?

I think this is a test for the GOP.  Do they wish to be a fundamental player in relation to national governance or be a party controlled by dim-wits and the half-baked crowd?

That has become a legitimate question in the aftermath of last night. Because House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy were also stained by what took place, it seems to us that the only person who’s capable of toppling Boehner right now is Paul Ryan. But does he — or anyone else — want that job? But it’s also possible that Boehner could emerge from this wounded but not critically. So he seems to have three options, and none of them are good. One, he does what the Senate agrees to, even if that means bringing legislation to the floor that doesn’t have majority support from House Republicans. Two, he throws himself on the mercy of the White House. And three, he and his caucus stand their ground and do everything they can to not budge. But that’s about it. Indeed, conservative columnist John Podhoretz tries to cut Boehner a break. “The speaker’s doing what little he can with what little he has.” The question is do other Republicans realize that? By the way, this Washington Post story might raise the question of whether leaks on both sides were part of the problem. Because of the tinderbox that is his conference, Boehner didn’t want his negotiating details to become public, but they did, leading to scrambling and “Plan B.”)

Keep Eyes On Speaker Boehner

I think Speaker Boehner is becoming a man.

There has been a great deal of chatter about the actions that Speaker Boehner took yesterday.

For all the political theatre that is coming from the GOP side of the aisle, Boehner knows who won the election, and just as important, who lost.

It is my theory that Boehner is putting out all the statements that he politically needs to in an effort to put a face on the conservative agenda, knowing that in the end the White House holds all the cards and will be the one to make the final deal on the fiscal plan.  Being grounded in reality is very important, and someone in the leadership of the GOP must be a grown-up.

While the public side of the speaker is tough on the Democrats, the private side against the teabaggers who scorned him and made his life hell the last two years is taking a turn.   It is because of this news that everyone can rest easier about securing a final deal before the end of the year.  Speaker Boehner is growing up, and taking charge.  The White House might have a GOP partner they can finally work with.

The confidence that Boehner has in his own ability to get a deal, and then get it through the House, was on display with the other fireworks that came out of the leadership yesterday. The speaker’s almost-unprecedented move to take away top-tier committee seats from four iconoclastic and obstreperous conservatives in his caucus — Dave Schweikert of Arizona, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Justin Amash of Michigan and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas — was an assertive “I’m in charge” power play that he never would have carried out in the past two years. That he’s doing so now, and further poking the conservative advocacy groups in the eye, is a sign that he’s confident he can get away with enforcing a whole lot more discipline in the coming two years, starting with the votes to do what it takes legislatively to carry out a fiscal cliff deal.

Republicans Double-Down On Speaker Boehner Over Payroll Tax Cut

Ouch.  From Politico

The Republicans are getting tarred over this matter, and rightly so.  They walked into their own political trap and now want everyone else to let them go.  Isn’t going to happen.  The House Republicans are going to have to come to terms with the importance of governing.  That is why they wanted to be elected, right?  Or was it to just blow up bridges?  The teabaggers are learning a lesson, and I might add so are those other Republicans who used that odious Tea Party element their own political ends.

In a blow to House Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called on the House to pass a two-month extension of the payroll tax bill, with a push to use the extra time to negotiate a full year extension. McConnell is also requesting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appoint conferees to negotiate a longer-term bill. “The House should pass an extension that locks in the thousands of Keystone XL pipeline jobs, prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions,” McConnell said in a Thursday statement.

Reid later released a statement promising that he will be “happy to restart the negotiating process to forge a year-long extension” as soon as the House passes the Senate’s two-month compromise deal.

House Republicans Scared To Vote On Tax Break For Working Americans

Wow!  I think the GOP have their tits and nuts in a wringer.

From CNN.

House Republicans will likely prevent a vote on a Senate plan for a two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday night. 

GOP aides told CNN the vote would likely be scrapped to avoid having House Republicans oppose a tax break for working Americans. The vote had been expected Monday night, but after a long meeting of the House Republican conference, GOP leaders said they would wait until Tuesday. 

Speaker John Boehner called for a one-year extension rather than the two-month extension passed by an 89-10 vote in the Senate on Saturday. “We’re willing to get the work done now and do it the right way,” said Boehner, R-Ohio. 

Moments later, Pelosi, D-California, countered: “It’s just the radical, tea party Republicans who are holding up this tax cut for the American people and jeopardizing our economic growth.” 

The payroll tax cut is worth roughly $1,000 a year for an average family. The Senate bill also addressed expiring emergency federal unemployment benefits and the renewal of the so-called doc fix, a delay in scheduled pay cuts to Medicare physicians.

Congressional Republicans Must Show They Care About Middle America With Payroll Tax Issue

The gamesmanship in Washington all for the purpose of political points is not making many friends among the voters.  The polling results show that approval of Congress ranks somewhere just below diphtheria.  That seems not to faze the ones who seem to willingly embrace the heated rhetoric and bombastic tactics to score a point.  It might be noted by Speaker Boehner that even Tim Tebow can only push the envelope so far.  There is a time to reckon with reality.

While I agree with those who say that tax policy should not be crafted for two month runs, I also know from following the back-and-forth in Washington that the end result could have been different had the Democrats a credible and reliable partner in the other party with which to work alongside.  That has not been the case for many years, and a primary reason we are again at the impasse over the payroll tax issue.

The line is clear.

The Senate passed an extension to run until early next year, and are now out of session.  The House thinks that partisan brinkmanship is the best way to act leading up to the Holidays.  They consist of a party that truly feels that a payroll tax cut enacted last year was not the proper way to proceed, and that the benefits of such a cut did nothing for the economy.

Senate Majority Leader Reid minced no words.  He was plain-spoken to the point that even a Republican could understand.

“My House colleagues should be clear on what their vote means today. If Republicans vote down the bipartisan compromise negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders, and passed by 89 senators including 39 Republicans, their intransigence will mean that in ten days, 160 million middle class Americans will see a tax increase, over two million Americans will begin losing their unem ployment benefits, and millions of senior citizens on Medicare could find it harder to receive treatment from physicians.”

Congressional Republicans are seeking ways to pay for the payroll tax cut, though totally rejected any notion in the past that the revenue heavy Bush tax cuts should in any way be balanced with cuts.  That the Republicans look out for the wealthy, and continually screw the middle class and poor is not news.  That they even do it so blatantly at Christmas is not even news. 

That they think they can get away with this is what gets me deep down.

This time the GOP may have to buckle.

From CNN

Speaker John Boehner said Monday morning that he expects the House to reject the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut bill that the Senate approved on Saturday.

Boehner also said he expects the House to pass legislation reinforcing the need for a one-year extension and wants the matter to be taken up by a House-Senate conference committee.

A Senate Democratic aide told CNN that the chances were “zero” that the Senate would return to Washington from its holiday recess to continue negotiating with the House on the issue.

The payroll tax cut extension expires at the end of the year and is worth roughly $1,000 a year for an average family.

Why Speaker Boehner Will Have Problems With His Debt Ceiling Plan Today

What idea would Speaker Boehner hatch to deal with the skittish Asian markets when they open Monday morning?  That was the question I posed to a neighbor last night as we talked on the lawn about the mess in Washington concerning the debt limit.  What is being considered, as far as the ones that seem to know, present far less of a real plan than what will be required.

At the end of the day there must be a revenue component to this package.  The Republicans must step up and start to understand their role in government.

–A Democrat familiar with the negotiations: “Boehner has pledged that [today] he will present a BIPARTISAN plan to raise the debt ceiling. Inside the room and in talks with leaders, he is pushing for a short-term extension where there may need to be a second vote on the debt the ceiling. But Obama and Pelosi are adamantly opposed, and Reid put out a statement saying he opposes one and has said privately it can’t pass the Senate. So nothing short-term will be viewed as serious by the markets, or would prevent the negative reaction that Boehner is trying to preempt with [today’s] announcement. The rating agencies have said a short-term could lead to a downgrade. Boehner cannot unveil anything that looks, smells, or sounds like a short-term extension. Otherwise, it will be dismissed in minutes, because it can’t pass the Senate.”

–Standard & Poor’s, July 14: “[W]e believe that an inability to reach an agreement now could indicate that an agreement will not be reached for several more years. We view an inability to timely agree and credibly implement medium-term fiscal consolidation policy as inconsistent with a ‘AAA’ sovereign rating, given the expected government debt trajectory.”

Reason Major Budget Deal Failed In Washington Due To Conservative Republicans

On July 7th I asked the basic question.

Question for Republicans…what matters more….nation’s economic health…..or partisan politics?

On July 8th I wrote the following.

I have long suspected that House Speaker Boehner wants more of a moderate plan that can actually pass, and may at the end of the day need to arouse some wrath from congressional teabaggers in order to get a deal for the country.  After all, there is no way that the harsh measures from the extreme right of his party can be implemented.  But the middle road approach of means testing some entitlements, and closing tax loopholes would have, I strongly suspect,  enough votes to pass.

This weekend we learned that the large deal collapsed, and the White House along with Boehner are trying to strike a smaller deal.

Today The New York Times analyses why that has happened…..which takes me back to what I asked on July 7th.  Question for Republicans…what matters more….nation’s economic health…..or partisan politics?

But the speaker’s lofty ambitions quickly crashed into the political reality of a divided, highly partisan Congress. His decision on Saturday night to abandon the comprehensive deficit-reduction package, citing the White House’s insistence on tax increases, was a sharp reversal. It highlighted the challenge he faces in persuading his party to tolerate any compromise on government spending and exposed the fissures within his own leadership team over how to proceed.       

Had Mr. Boehner forged ahead with a plan that fell flat with his rank and file, it could conceivably have led to a challenge of his leadership position, and it would certainly have undermined confidence among conservatives in his ability to lead the Republicans. Even opening the door to increased revenues as part of a deal with Mr. Obama and the Democrats struck many Republicans as a profound misreading of what conservatives, in Congress and at the grass-roots level, would tolerate.       

Yet in his push for a sweeping deal, Mr. Boehner may also have underestimated the willingness of Mr. Obama to make concessions on traditional Democratic priorities and to challenge Congressional Democrats to give ground on programs like Medicare and Social Security, an approach that put pressure on Mr. Boehner to cede territory as well.       

This point seems not correct as reports have surfaced for days of real savings from entitlements on the table, to the point that some on the left in Congress were truly upset.  But when there is one party that will not even think or consider that any new tax revenues must be created to run government, that only leads to a most dysfunctional problem in Washington.

As an example, Republicans led by Congressman Cantor, rejected proposals to close loopholes or other tax breaks for owners of corporate jets, oil and gas companies and hedge funds. They said these measures, which would have raised about $130 billion, amounted to tax increases.

By pulling the plug on those negotiations, Mr. Boehner no doubt reduced the prospect of a messy fight within his party. But he also disappointed those — including some Republicans — who had hoped lawmakers and Mr. Obama could defy the odds and deliver a budget deal of historic consequence.      

Thorny Teabaggers Trouble Top-Dog Boehner

One of the many shows underway in Washington is the fight between the seasoned Republicans who understand issues such as the debt ceiling, along with the way legislative bodies operate.  Then there are the new kids on the block who are stunned that the bluster they created actually produced an election victory last November.

I have repeatedly stated this would be cheap theatre when the teabaggers were forced to work with others to form a working majority.

It is turning out to be the best sideshow in town.

While the 54 Republicans who voted against the most recent stopgap spending bill didn’t derail the legislation, some GOP lawmakers are becoming increasingly wary of a faction that rejects substantial spending cuts because they want deeper ones or the inclusion of divisive social policy riders.

Many of the critics are close to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who struggles more each day to keep his majority unified as a three-month spending showdown threatens to spill into April. The House passed $6 billion of spending cuts Tuesday, to bring the total cut to $10 billion.

“Yep, it is surprising,” Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson said of the difficulty convincing hard-liners that the leadership is cutting large amounts of spending. “I mean, this is three weeks; we’re cutting $6 billion. You know? It is surprising. This is the only time in my life where I can cut $6 billion in a three-week period and be called a liberal.”

Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette, an appropriator close to Boehner, said Republicans are seeing a “constant tension” between “the Democratic Party that talks about cuts but doesn’t want to cut anything, and then you have my side, that wants to cut anything that moves.

“That creates this dynamic tension, and you have people in my party that are angry that we are not adding riders, or shutting down the government, things like that, but this is exactly what people expect us to do — find cuts and continue to talk,” LaTourette said.

Other Republicans are quietly complaining that a few bombastic members of their conference who regularly appear on TV create an outsize perception of pressure.