It’s no secret that Speaker John Boehner is caught between a rock and a hard place. His most recent public humiliation? Being undermined by conservatives in the Senate who are usurping his authority by working to turn House Members against him.
If Boehner thought he could rule like Sam Rayburn or Tip O’Neill — or even Newt Gingrich — he was mistaken. (Much of this isn’t his fault, but at this point, that’s almost irrelevant. This has been going on for years — and has only gotten worse.)
In any event, at some point, he’s going to have to decide whether he’s content being remembered as a weak Speaker who went along to get along — or if he will attempt to assert his authority.
Does he have it in him? I’m conflicted. On one hand, you don’t get to be Speaker without stepping on a few people on the way up. He climbed the slippery pole, as they say, and that ain’t easy. On the other hand, what has Boehner done recently that would lead one to believe he’s up for putting anyone in line?
If Boehner decides to reaffirm his authority, it seems to me he has a couple of options — both of them risky:
1. Liberal Bill Scher argues that Boehner could dump the far-right faction of 40-or-so conservative Congressmen who are causing him trouble, and create a “grand coalition” with Democrats (I would argue it’s probably only a dozen, or so, Members who are causing most of the problems for him). This might earn him MSM praise, but for conservatives, it would be like crossing the Rubicon. Still, you have to wonder if it’s worse than the status quo.
2. Meanwhile, Allah suggests that Boehner might teach the tea party contingent a lesson, by giving them what they want — a shutdown: “[E]ven some Beltway Republicans might want to see it because it’s the only way to prove to tea partiers in Congress and elsewhere that shutdowns will damage the party electorally.” The up-side to this is that, by teaching them a lesson, Boehner could potentially regain his authority without turning apostate. He might even be celebrated by the conservative base. The downside? In teaching them this lesson, Boehner also risks further damaging the GOP’s brand. A shutdown might even cost Republicans the majority, thus, making his Speakership a moot point.
Will the Empire strike back? Speaker, it’s your move.