Sunday, February 15, 2015
John Boehner's Dangerous Game of Chicken
Some people never learn from their mistakes. People like John Boehner. A little over a year ago the Speaker of the House allowed a small faction of his conference to shut down the government and force a near debt-ceiling default over funding of the Affordable Care Act. It was a tremendous political blunder that accomplished nothing. The law went into effect and Republicans were rightly blamed for the stunt.
On February 27th, funding for the Department of Homeland Security will expire unless Congress passes a bill to fund it. The House has passed a bill doing just that. There's just one little problem: the funding bill strips President Obama of his authority to issue executive orders on immigration.
Both the White House and Senate Democrats have called for a clean funding bill. Even some Republicans are expressing concern over this game of chicken by the Speaker. Former Homeland Security Chairman Peter King believes the GOP will be held accountable if the agency gets shut down. "We control the House and Senate; Americans know that we caused the last government shutdown, so we have a lasting specter of Ted Cruz hanging over us."
King's frustration over his party's antics is nothing new, and he's not alone. He, along with a few brave souls, criticized the Tea Party-led shutdown of 2013, all for naught. The simple truth is that Boehner and House leadership are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they do the responsible thing and pass a clean funding bill, they'll be skewered by the far Right; if they cow-tow to the extremist elements in the Party, they run the risk of defunding the agency tasked with protecting the country from a possible terrorist attack. If you thought nearly defaulting on the good faith and credit of the United States was bad, try another 9/11 on for size.
With the Paris attacks barely a month old, Boehner is embarking on the biggest gamble of his political life. He is counting on Obama and the Democrats to cave at the eleventh hour and give into his demands. But, just like in 2013, Senate Democrats are united. They are blocking Mitch McConnell from bringing the House bill to a vote.
Someone is going to have to blink first in this game of chicken and once more it looks as though it will be the Republicans. The only question is whether Boehner will come to his senses before the 27th. If he doesn't, and the nation is attacked, the GOP can kiss the 2016 election goodbye. While most Americans have forgotten how close the country came to defaulting on its debt, more than thirteen years later the image of the twin towers burning and collapsing is still etched in their collective consciousness.
It will be a very, very long time before they forgive the GOP should history repeat itself.