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April’s Fool: Will it be John Boehner or the Tea Party?

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You can always count on Sen. Chuck Schumer to get to the heart of a matter with a good quote,  “So Speaker Boehner is caught between a shutdown and a hard place,” the voluble New Yorker says. “He has caught a tiger by the tail in the form of the Tea Party.” 

With just a little more than a week left to settle on a federal budget to avoid a government shutdown, congressional Democrats and Republicans actually seemed like they might be close to a deal.  But, suddenly, the House Republicans did a strange thing. They pulled back from the talks. They changed their minds about what level of spending cuts they could accept.  “We were right on the verge of a breakthrough, and they suddenly moved the goalposts. We felt a little bit like we were left at the altar,” Schumer adds.

What happened? In a word or two, the answer is, “tea party.” Hard-line conservatives got cold feet, fearing too much of a compromise of the deep, deep budget cuts they passed last month in the form of H.R. 1, the spending bill opposed by President Obama and Senate Democrats.

Boehner ultimately came back to the bargaining table, and the word now is that Boehner’s office has at least agreed with Democrats on a target level of cuts: $33 billion.  Although that certainly counts as progress, now comes the hard part: what, specifically, to cut to get to that $33 billion.  Conservatives, no doubt, will continue to want to slash things like public broadcasting and environmental protection funding.  Democrats would rather cut things like programs already identified as waste or redundancy, as well as federal tax subsidies to big oil companies that already are posting record profits.

But a question just as large for Speaker Boehner is whether his tea party colleagues will go along with whatever compromise he and his team hammer out.  Already, more than 50 House conservatives walked away from him on an earlier budget vote that he supported. It was Democrats who had to step in to save that vote earlier this month in order to avert a government shutdown.  The consensus is that debacle has already weakened Boehner’s position.  As I write this, tea party activists are rallying at the Capitol against compromise, to press for a continued hard line for the budget.  The question is, if that is true and Boehner already is weakened, what happens if tea party lawmakers abandon him a second time?  Most immediately, of course, the speaker can, and wil, turn once more to Democrats to save the day. There’s already word that he is laying the groundwork to do so.

That would be good policy, and avoid a government shutdown looming for April 9.  The politics are a different matter, however.  Democrats aren’t the ones who voted Boehner in as speaker. Republicans did, including scores of tea party-aligned conservatives who will have been scorned if Boehner turns to Democrats to pass a compromise budget.  If Boehner relies on Democrats for a compromise, tea party lawmakers could well become enraged and Boehner could find his speakership in jeopardy.  Conservative lawmakers could well launch a plan to depose Boehner as speaker, and replace him with a leader who they find to be a more reliable ally.  Indeed, tea party lawmakers almost certainly would have to do so.  If they oppose a final budget, Boehner passes it with Democrats and survives as speaker, it will be the tea party and the members it helped elect who will have been so marginalized as to become nearly irrelevant in the debate. 

Either way, someone will start April finding that the joke in Washington will be on them.

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About Scott Nance

  • The GOP has not been out of power long enough to know what to do with it when they get some. Voters gave some power back to them because of a desire for more immediate gratification that they wanted. And there is the tea party effect – never mind the process, act like an amateur – that must privately gall the Speaker.

    Amateurs forget that their job is to get reelected. Stalling the process of government might make the news cycle and provide sound bites for all, but it is not a successful strategy to keep an elected position. These “freshman class” representatives seem bent of successful failure and will help the GOP return to being the out of power party.


  • Amateurs forget that their job is to get reelected.

    That might be because their job is to carry out the wishes of their constituents, not to get to DC and immediately start thinking about the next election.

    What a lot of them forget, however, is that not all of their constituents voted for them. And a lot of Republicans have an awful lot of trouble realizing that “my way or the highway” is not actually a very helpful or productive strategy.

  • I will never forget interviewing Newt Gingrich on WJCL TV in Savannah, GA, after his second reelection. He was a different Newt from the one who first went to DC in 1978. His hair, his suits, his general bearing all reflected “incumbent.” That is because he understood his job which, as he said, included being reelected.

    There were 25 one term members of the 111th Congress, of which 23 were Democrats.

    As you aptly note, “not all of their constituents voted for them.” It is tough to accomplish much by serving in congress only one term, except maybe the Whig Abraham Lincoln of the 30th Congress.


  • frazer

    If these people who want to shut down the government suceed at it- I thionk they should pay the mortgages,rent, bills. etc. of all the federal employees affected by it!!!

  • I imagine Boehner is a savvy enough pol to take the heat for passing an FY11 budget with Democratic votes. The big fight will come on the FY12 budget.

    Doc is right — the Tea Party and hard-right GOP House members forget that there are lots of people, in some cases a majority, in their districts who didn’t vote for them. Motivated conservatives turned out disproportionately in 2010.

    The larger electorate that will take part in next year’s presidential-year elections is not so gung-ho on this extremist crap. They want problems solved, not created. They want people compromising, not digging their heels in.

    I see a potentially huge 2012 debacle taking shape for the Republicans. They can always be counted on to overreach.

  • Clavos

    I see a potentially huge 2012 debacle taking shape for the Republicans

    Hope springs eternal…

  • Hope springs eternal…

    You could say the same thing about the GOP. Their candidate roster is pretty lackluster, eh?

    Add to that the polarizing overreaching by governors like Scott Walker, John Kasich, Rick Snyder and Rick Scott [have I missed anyone?], and you have the makings of a disaster.

  • Clavos

    …and you have the makings of a disaster.

    Not “the makings,” the USA is a disaster; has been for years, and no one party is solely to blame, both have contributed, each in its own way, to the sorry state the country is in today.


    Once “the [undisputed] leader of the free world,” now a second-rate power, rapidly slipping to third place, and, in some corners of the world, a laughingstock.

    An economy that is not only moribund, but deeply in debt and getting deeper at an alarming rate on a daily basis.

    No consensus among the people, who are arguably more deeply divided than at any time since Secession; with no relief in sight, as the pundits continue to emphasize and exacerbate the divisions, especially those associated with class differences.

    Involved in more wars simultaneously than at any other time in living memory, and accomplishing no good in any of them.

    With a steadily deteriorating infrastructure, about which nobody is doing anything, which, sadly, probably doesn’t matter, as there’s no money for it anyway.

    An educational system, once the envy of the world, that now lags behind nearly two dozen other countries in terms of student test scores in core disciplines.

    And those are just the highlights.

  • Well, I just meant a political disaster for the Republicans.

    Your glass-half-empty viewpoint must be a rather wearying load to tote. Your list of the US’s ills is hyperbolic and utterly one-sided, as if you honestly believe there are no bright spots.

    I mean, it was only ten years ago that we achieved a balanced budget after decades of deficits. The whole world has just gone through a scary financial panic, not just the US. Things are cyclical, and they will get better.

  • zingzing

    handy, it’s lucky that conservatives have a happy fantasy land where everything is golden and white and good. it’s called the past, and at no point has it ever been nor will it ever be. as clavos’ view of the present darkens, his view of the past brightens accordingly. it’s entering into blackout/whiteout as we speak.

  • Clavos

    @ 9 & 10:


    And you both know it.

    Nothing I pointed out in #8 is untrue.

    The US is second-rate and has been for decades (likely since Vietnam, which will forever be a blot), and both parties (and philosophies) are to blame.

    Actually, having grown up foreign, I’ve never seen this country in a good light; I got here just before Vietnam, and it’s all been downhill since.

  • zingzing

    love it or leave it, clavos. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!!!! i’m just joshin. there’s a lot that’s plain old stupid about america. but, go anywhere, you’ll find something to complain about. whether you do or not is up to you. i know i’ve had my dark moments with america, and i think half this country is just about insane, but that’s the way of the world. no sense getting all down about it.

  • If the US is ‘second rate,’ the implication is that some country/countries are first-rate. And who might they be?

    European countries [and Japan] have rich culture and cozy social services but economic/declining-influence doldrums worse than ours.

    Asia has some exciting economic development going on, but stunning inequities of wealth and power, especially in China and India.

    Chile, maybe? South Korea? Canada? The list is short, and they all have their own flaws and worries.

  • Clavos

    Australia readily comes to mind, handy, but I take your point about the paucity of really first rate countries in today’s world.

    I do disagree that saying the US is second rate implies that there are multiple first rate countries — it’s possible to have nothing but second rate for whatever reason — but again, my vote goes to Australia — to the degree that, if I were twenty years younger I would move there in the blink of an eye.

  • Australia’s plenty cool. So in fact are many of the ‘second rate’ countries of the world. San Francisco, London, Paris, Rome, Buenos Aires, the Greek islands, are all amazing places, warts and all.

    And we do live in interesting times [the old Chinese ‘curse.’] I actually feel blessed to live in the dawn of the internet age. When I think how iTunes, Wikipedia and Google Maps, to name three, have changed life as we know it, it floors me.

  • zingzing

    a friend of mine moved to australia recently. she didn’t like it and is now back. my current roommate is from australia as well. it may be a beautiful place, but there’s some reason why people leave it. probably got something to do with the welfare state, eh?

  • Clavos

    Maybe zing, but in my thirty years in the travel business, I came to realize that, although they travel more than any other nationality in the world, Americans as a group are not particularly good travelers; most speak only one language, and they don’t travel with an open mind, but instead complain about what they encounter in foreign lands usually by comparing the foreign thing unfavorably with its American counterpart.

    I once even ran into a man who was traveling on a 55 day trip on a freighter around South and Central America who never got off the ship, saying he knew he wouldn’t like wherever we were as well as “home.” If I had known him better, I would have asked him why the hell he was on the trip.

  • zingzing

    yeah, well… the girl i know was not one of those types. a very inquisitive mind. she went for a man, some ginger. it didn’t work out. you know how those things go. she was in sydney, which looks too beautiful a place to me to get sick of for no reason, so i guess she had her reasons. she loves surfing and yoga and she’s all transcendental and shit, so i dunno why she rejected the place. it’s nothing against australia, i’m sure. anyway, i’m glad she’s back. because i want to beat her guts.

    on the other hand, another one of my friends lived in australia and new zealand for a couple years, bouncing back and forth to beat the visas, and he loved it. but now he lives in raleigh, nc, getting his physics degree. he was going to become a diving instructor, but now he just got accepted into mit. so i guess there are good things about america in the end. of course, he has to live in boston. ugh.

  • Clavos: “although they travel more than any other nationality in the world”.

    What makes you say that? I find that most surprising and was under the impression that a far lower percentage of Americans even had passports, never mind travelled a lot…

  • Arch Conservative

    “If these people who want to shut down the government suceed at it- I thionk they should pay the mortgages,rent, bills. etc. of all the federal employees affected by it!!!”

    Ummmm yeah……….either that or they could get real jobs like the rest of us in the private sector.

  • Arch Conservative

    “he has to live in boston. ugh.”

    I was born in the peoples Republic of Massachusetts, Cambridge to be specific. I’ve lived in NH since I was five though.

    Massachusetts has a lot of history, the Cape and Berkshires are beautiful, there are many great schools and hospitals. Beyond that the state is nothing but a putrid sea of soulless “progressivism”

    Great place to visit. Horrible placer to live. Most of the rest of the nation views MA as a joke. A joke your avarage Masshole is incapable of getting.

  • Clavos


    I…was under the impression that a far lower percentage of Americans even had passports,…

    At one time, yes, but no longer, because the US government now requires them for re-entry. However, prior to that new requirement, US citizens could travel a substantial part of the world without a passport because many countries did not require them of us, particularly in Europe, Latin America, and Asia, so there were many Americans who traveled frequently but had no passport. For obvious reasons, Mexico has traditionally been the prime destination for US tourists (+6M a year).

    On the inbound side, the US continues to be among the top destinations in the world, but that’s a different market segment.

    But, what was always true was that the dollar volume of US tourists (from, not to) was/is the greatest in the world, because of frequency of travel, which, of course, means there’s a huge number of American repeaters every year.

  • Traveling without a passport? Never heard of that before. How did that come about?

    I’ve been to most places and been travelling or living abroad for many years now but rarely come across many Americans; certainly less than a couple of dozen in total…

    I used to travel to the US a lot but since it got paranoid early this century, I wouldn’t really consider going there again. Too many security people with bad attitudes for my liking…

  • Clavos

    Traveling without a passport? Never heard of that before. How did that come about?

    It came about because for many years, in many countries around the world, US citizens were not required to obtain visas to visit, thus obviating the need for a passport to enter those countries.

    I did it for years, Chris. Because I was an airline employee, with free travel privileges, I traveled extensively (for business as well as pleasure) for the entire thirty years I worked in the industry; I did have a passport, because I needed it for some places, but often, depending on destination, left it at home when traveling to a country which didn’t require it. As an American citizen, it wasn’t required of me in many places.

    All that’s changed now. Now, even the US government requires us to have a passport for reentry, although there are still countries which don’t require it of US citizen visitors.

  • Clavos

    Too many security people with bad attitudes for my liking…

    That has always been a problem here. As a travel professional, the bad attitude of US government personnel charged with dealing with inbound tourists was one of the problems most often brought to my attention by foreign travel executives.

  • Well, I’m still a little confused; it is quite possible to travel to many countries without a visa, but that doesn’t mean normally you don’t need a passport.

    It is pretty amazing how the USA has kept its image as the land of the free when it is actually far more regulated than many other countries.

    The authorities are incredibly controlling as well. I’ve never met so many bossy, arrogant police officers anywhere as I have in the USA – and that was before 9/11, since when it has got far worse.

  • I guess I should add that regular Americans I’ve met have mostly been really nice!

  • Clavos

    I’ve been to most places and been travelling or living abroad for many years now but rarely come across many Americans; certainly less than a couple of dozen in total…

    I guess you weren’t traveling much in Europe, then, Chris. At any given time in any summer, most of the European capitals, including London, Paris, Rome, to name a few, are crawling with American tourists, who second only to the Germans are highly visible, owing (in both cases) to their obnoxiousness.

    During the summers, most Eurpean destinations are host to literally thousands of Americans. The same is true of Latin America, and increasingly, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Asia.

    This is relatively old data, but nonetheless an accurate picture of US outbound tourism in recent years. Note that in 2004, more than 27 million Americans traveled abroad, 43% (11.6 million) to Europe. That’s a little more than a “handful,” Chris.

  • I’ve never met so many bossy, arrogant police officers anywhere as I have in the USA – and that was before 9/11, since when it has got far worse.

    Chris, as a tourist and a guest in the country, I would have thought you’d have made a point of meeting as few police officers as possible!

    I know a number of American cops, and while the level of training and professionalism can be lower than you’d find in the UK (especially in small towns), your characterisation of them as bossy and arrogant is unfair.

    I suspect you’re basing it on your experience with immigration, customs and security officers at airports, which is the only place the majority of visitors will ever encounter US law enforcement. The TSA in particular has an appalling reputation for just the sort of attitude you describe, although as a frequent air traveller I can tell you that they have improved significantly over the last couple of years.

  • Clavos

    But the immigration and customs people are incredibly arrogant, especially with foreigners. I don’t find their counterparts around the world to be much better for the most part, but the US bureaucrats are the worst — even the communist countries to which I traveled years ago had better attitudes, as do the minions of most Latin Ameican countries — even those run by dictators.

    This has been a bone of contention for decades with those of us who work (worked in my case) in the tourism industry.

  • I’m with you there, Clav. Even the one in Fiji was fuckin’ miserable, although to be fair to him it was five in the morning when we landed.

    The notable exception to the rule, in my experience, was Australia. Extremely nice chaps at immigration who seemed genuinely pleased that we’d chosen to visit their country.