Friday, September 25, 2015

John Boehner Calls It A Night

Well, that was unexpected. John Boehner, the beleaguered and sometimes reluctant Speaker of the House, announced that he is resigning from Congress, effective October 30. Tell me you saw this coming and I'm calling Bellevue to have that rubber room prepped.

Seriously, though, this moment was four years in the making. Ever since that ill-fated and much maligned 2011 budget deal that brought us the Sequester was enacted, Boehner has been on borrowed time. His base despised him and the establishment, while being sympathetic, had little respect for him. His own number two, Eric Cantor, undermined him at every turn. To say Boehner was between a rock and a hard place would be an understatement.

Still, even with all the dysfunction he has had to contend with, I thought Boehner would survive. After all, thanks to the gerrymandering after the 2010 midterms, he had a super majority at his disposal; a majority that in all likelihood won't be in jeopardy for several election cycles. But even with the largest majority any Republican Speaker has had to work with since the days of Harry Truman, he was never able to control his conference. Too often, the Republican-controlled House looked more like a frat house than a legislative body. The low point for Boehner was when he allowed a small group of escaped lunatics, lead by Ted Cruz, to shut down the government over the rollout of Obamacare. It was a stinging indictment of his leadership ability.

It was clear Boehner wasn't in the mood for a repeat performance over defunding Planned Parenthood. Odds were he was prepared to allow the Senate's clean funding bill a straight up and down vote in the House. And almost immediately after that, he would've faced a no confidence vote from the unhinged contingent. Anyway you slice it, he was screwed. In the end, he fell on his sword. For the first time since assuming the mantle of Speaker, John Boehner had the balls to tell his opponents to go fuck themselves. The government, for the time being, will NOT be shutting down.

And now the sixty-four thousand dollar question on everyone's mind is who follows Boehner. Obviously, the early favorite is current majority leader Kevin McCarthy. But the truth is nobody knows for sure. With all the infighting that has been going on within this motley crew, you never know. These dim bulbs might get so caught up trying to one up themselves, Nancy Pelosi could end up back as the Speaker. Yes, as strange as it might seem, if the Republican conference can't agree on a new Speaker or doesn't have a clear-cut winner that can garner enough votes, Pelosi could actually emerge as the winner. It hasn't happened since 1856, when Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts won with a simple plurality to become the Speaker.

But while a Pelosi victory would be nice, I doubt it would actually happen. In the end, Republicans should be able to cobble together enough votes to elect one of their own. The real problem will come after the vote. If Boehner couldn't lead this group, how in the hell is McCarthy going to, or whoever ends up getting the gavel?

One thing is for certain. John Boehner's tenure as Speaker of the House may be coming to an end, but the nightmare that is the Republican-controlled House will go on for quite some time.

Oh joy, oh bliss!

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