Visual source: Newseum
Whether you say that House GOP leaders “caved in” to Democrats or simply gave in to growing pressure within Republican ranks, it was a rough few days for Speaker John Boehner in his party’s bid to forge a year-long extension of a payroll tax cut.
“It may not have been politically the smartest thing in the world,” Boehner told reporters in announcing the deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a two month extension, “but let me tell you what, I think our members waged a good fight.”
A quick scan of news web sites though showed that the headlines were not so forgiving for Boehner.
In making a U-turn late Thursday afternoon and accepting a deal on extending payroll-tax cuts and unemployment benefits for those who have been out of work for more than six months, Speaker Boehner belatedly acknowledged what had been obvious for days: he and his obstinate colleagues had presented President Obama with was an early Christmas present. It was no surprise that the cave-in came shortly before the evening news; Republicans didn’t want to endure another horrible news cycle.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is again sounding an embarrassing retreat after misreading the political tea leaves. [...] Why did he change course? Because most Americans could see that House Republicans were making it impossible to cut a deal. That means they would have gotten the blame if taxes were allowed to jump by about $ 1,000 a year for the average family, while unemployment benefits for nearly 3 million people were lost.
Republicans in the Senate saw this coming and struck a compromise with Democrats. It is remarkable that Boehner was so tone deaf, he had to walk into this buzz saw before he was convinced.
Finally. After a year of artful camouflage and concealment, Republicans let us glimpse the rift between establishment pragmatists and Tea Party ideologues. There may be hope for the republic after all.[...] This glimpse of honest debate among Republicans won’t last long, I predict. They’ll try their best to resume the practice of absolute anti-Obama unity, which has worked quite well for them. But no one can erase what voters have seen this week, and it wasn’t pretty.
There are only two possible reasons for House Republicans to behave the way they did. Maybe they are so blinded by ideology that they no longer care about the impact their actions might have on struggling American families. Or maybe their only guiding principle is that anything Obama supports, they oppose.
Every football fan knows the feeling of watching his or her favorite team implode as a result of mistakes. Even when the odds of victory are good, turnovers and penalties can kill any hope within minutes.
The Republicans might become one of those teams. The GOP goes into the 2012 election in relatively good shape. The laggard economy and rising deficit have placed President Barack Obama and Democratic candidates in a vulnerable position.[...]
Yet as the election begins, self-inflicted wounds are weakening Republican chances for a victory. Most important, House Republicans are playing to the extremes of their party and refusing to cut deals on routine matters such as the extension of unemployment compensation and a payroll tax cut.
One year ago, Tea Party legislators were making final preparations for their glorious arrival in Washington after trouncing Democrats in the November elections. And it was a good time to be a member of the “Don’t Tread on Me” crowd. In December 2010, CNN announced it would hold a Tea Party–branded Republican presidential debate, House Speaker-to-be John Boehner defiantly told 60 Minutes that “I reject the word” compromise and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia agreed to appear before the nascent, Michele Bachmann–led Tea Party House caucus. Moreover, Tea Party legislators who weren’t even in office yet pressured Republicans who were to scuttle a large spending bill, setting up a showdown that led to the extension of the Bush tax cuts. [...]
This [payroll tax cut] compromise got eighty-nine votes in the Senate—a near-unheard-of level of agreement there—including thirty-nine Republicans. Boehner said he thought the deal was “good,” only to be quickly rebuffed by the Tea Party. It thinks of the deal as “liberal Democrat incrementalism,” in the words of one Representative, and insists that every last one of its radical policy riders be attached to the final bill—from drug-testing unemployed Americans to repealing environmental regulations.
This time, the Tea Party suddenly finds itself alone: no longer controlling the media narrative nor even enjoying the support of many fellow Republicans. They came into 2012 like lions, but are poised to leave like lambs.
No matter what happens House Speaker John Boehner is in for a good cry. Six months ago, no one could have imagined this newly competitive political landscape. Sure, teabag-terrorist governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker (another dead man walking) have also damaged the brand. And there is no underestimating the damage done by the Republican primary. But arguably, no one is more responsible for making Republicans look like nattering nabobs than “Weepy-John” Boehner.
Boehner has personally improved the odds for both President Obama and for every Democrat on a ballot. He has presided over the least popular congress in history, and the first one to accomplish less than the infamous Do-Nothing Congress of 1947.