Skip to comments.Once Boxed-In, Boehner May Finally Be Master Of The House
Posted on 12/08/2012 2:34:42 PM PST by nickcarraway
Not long ago, it seemed to many observers that the House of Representatives was a case of the tail wagging the dog, with Speaker John Boehner unable to keep in line many of his fellow Republicans, especially freshmen who came to Congress riding the 2010 Tea Party wave.
Now, however, the big dog seems back in control.
Some of the signs are subtle, some not. But as he faces off with President Obama during fiscal cliff negotiations, Boehner enjoys a stronger position with House Republicans than he had during earlier showdowns with the White House.
In a paradoxical way, Obama's re-election victory coupled with congressional Democrats adding to their numbers may have helped Boehner. Some of those wins came at the expense of the Tea Party, the conservative movement whose affiliated House members have been very willing to stand up to Boehner.
In recent weeks, Boehner has seen his preferred candidate for a House Republican leadership position win and has gotten his entire leadership team to sign his tax-raising, fiscal-cliff counteroffer.
Less subtle was his crackdown on several GOP lawmakers viewed as unreliable: He approved their loss of committee assignments.
And reports of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia breathing down Boehner's neck, once common, are now scarce.
'Somewhat Unprecedented' Reversal
History suggests that speakers start with high inventories of power only to see them diminish, says Matt Green, a Catholic University political scientist who wrote an examination of speakers titled The Speaker of the House: A Study of Leadership.
In contrast, Boehner's power as speaker started at a relative low point in January 2011 and has risen from there.
"It's not unusual for speakers to have divisions within their party they have to manage," Green said in an interview. "And it's not unusual for speakers to have rivals to the throne. It is somewhat unprecedented, though, to see speakers starting off their tenure at a severe disadvantage and then cementing their power later, which appears to be happening right now with Boehner.
"Usually the pattern in recent decades is the opposite, where a new speaker has strong support, a broad base of good will and then, later, they start to see problems within their party and their power starts to dissipate. [Newt] Gingrich is a classic example of that. Going back further, folks like Carl Albert [in the 1970s] and John McCormack [in the 1960s] became less influential."
Though Boehner has appeared to consolidate support within the House Republican Conference, he has antagonized conservative activists away from Capitol Hill with some of his latest moves. His fiscal-cliff offer containing tax increases on the wealthy that would come from closing loopholes and capping deductions and the punishment of House members viewed as wayward drew criticism, as NPR's Tamara Keith recently reported.
Reading The Tea Leaves
Despite complaints from conservative activists and bloggers, however, Boehner remains the most powerful Republican in Washington with his control of one half of the legislative branch. And at least within his House Republican Conference, things are now going his way.
Case in point: In a secret ballot last month, his preferred candidate, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state beat Rep. Tom Price of Georgia for a top post within the House Republican hierarchy. And Price had the support of some of the bigger names in the House GOP conference, including Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Rep. Mike Pence, the governor-elect of Indiana.
John Feehery, a Washington political consultant who once served as press secretary for Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, described that victory as important for Boehner in internal politics.
"That was a message that the [Republican] conference as a whole has read the tea leaves," Feehery wrote in a blog post in which he also ticked off other indicators of Boehner's strength.
And Boehner's ousting of several lawmakers from positions on popular committees like the Budget and Financial Services panels sent the kind of message that Speaker Joe Cannon in the early 20th century was known to send.
"Cannon did the same thing. Stick a few dissidents on a bad committee like the Acoustics Committee and the message is read loud and clear." Members of that ancient House committee actually had the thankless job of checking the sound quality in the House chamber. Fortunately for those present-day House GOP dissidents, that committee is long defunct.
Up Next: Dueling With Obama
"It's vindictive," complained Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, talking to reporters after a closed-door meeting of the House Republican Conference on Wednesday. House GOP leaders booted the congressman from the House Agriculture Committee, an assignment important to his district and state.
"It's not a message to me. It punishes my constituents and I still represent them," Huelskamp said. "It's meant as a message to the Republican conference in general, especially the comment today [that Boehner reportedly made at the meeting] that there may be more punishment coming if you don't vote the right way."
But Boehner, who was first elected to Congress in 1990, has little time to appreciate his improved circumstances. The Republicans' absolutist stance against increasing tax rates on the wealthiest as part of a fiscal-cliff agreement has placed Boehner on a collision course with Obama, who is an absolutist in favoring such an increase.
He thinks his job is to be Ubama's butt boy.
Given the reality of party primaries, and the fact that each candidate raises his own funds, mainly from the conservative grass roots, I'm a little confused as to how anyone can purge conservative Republicans from congress.
Play hard ball against the Conservatives, then bend over for the Democrats.
The Obama henchman media have always liked bonehead.
He is the leader of the DC Beltway bandits and K street front men who are mostly former Bonehead aides !
Unlike Newt and Hammer the Obama media has protected this crook because he is one of them !
Spend spend spend !
He financed obamacare when he could have pulled the plug because K street wants Obamacare .
We were suckers to think this lobbyist bagman would stop any if it .
But he will lose in 2014 big and god help us then !
Nothing paradoxical about it. Boehner was part of Obama's team last time around, and now he's even further into Obama's pocket.
Whether we can do anything about it remains to be seen. Not until all the various kinds of conservatives finally agree to work together and unite behind a really strong candidate. The only one who fits that description in recent years is Sarah Palin, but I don't know if enough people will get behind her to prove it.
Boehner and the GOPe are very effectively playing the role of the Washington Generals. This is not A Good Thing.
Hat tip to dwfgator.
So he kicked them all down, appointed less conservative and weaker people and everything's OK now.
Go back to sleep.
NPR patting Boehner on the head and saying...”Good boy. Now roll over.”
First, the NYT. Now National Public Radio. All the Lefties are pumping up that pathetic wreck of a Speaker, while he rolls over and begs Obama to scratch his belly. Disgusting.
Don't you wish we had a conservative Bella Pelosi on our team?
John Boehner AKA "The No Nutz Putz"
Boner's is just collapsing from termite damage.
That's a real problem, but not enough of a reason to knuckle under to The Tanned Wons.
When NPR says a Rrepblican is the “master”....... what they really mean is that he is owned by the ‘Rats.
One party gov’t. The Spending Party.
a man of tears
A modern day Edward John Smith.
NPR patting Boehner on the head and saying...Good boy. Now roll over.
More like “.....Now bend over.”
Of course NPR loves Boehner. Like that’s a surprise or something.
Republicans lost 8. How many T-Partiers lost ? Or won ?