Skip to comments.Inside the Meltdown (The Inside Story Behind the Collapse of Boehner's Plan B)
Posted on 12/21/2012 5:18:03 AM PST by SeekAndFind
At a quarter to 8 p.m. on Thursday night, House Republicans gathered in the Capitol basement for an urgent, closed-door conference meeting. The scene was hushed and confused. Instead of huddling in a windowless room, members thought theyd spend the evening on the House floor, voting on Plan B, Speaker John Boehners fiscal-cliff proposal. But as they took their seats and looked at Boehners face, the reason for the gathering became clear: The speaker didnt have the votes. The whipping was over. Plan B was dead.
Boehners speech to the group was short and curt: He said his plan didnt have enough support, and that the House would adjourn until after Christmas, perhaps even later. But it was Boehners tone and body language that caught most Republicans off guard. The speaker looked defeated, unhappy, and exhausted after hours of wrangling. He didnt want to fight. There was no name-calling. As a devout Roman Catholic, Boehner wanted to pray. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, he told the crowd, according to attendees.
There were audible gasps of surprise, especially from freshman lawmakers who didnt see the meltdown coming. Boehners friends were shocked, and voiced their disappointment so the speakers foes could hear. My buddies and I said the same thing to each other, a Boehner ally told me later. We looked at each other, rolled our eyes, and just groaned. This is a disaster.
Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, a burly former car dealer, stood up and urged the conference to get behind the speaker. How the hell can you do this? Kelly asked, according to several people inside the room. A few of Boehners critics told Kelly to stop lecturing, but most were silent. They had been battling against Plan B all week, and quite suddenly, they had crippled the leadership. Boehner sensed the tension, requested calm, and then exited the room.
Since the meeting lasted only a few minutes, several members, such as Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, missed the session. As Huelskamp, a leading Plan B adversary, rushed to get there, he saw a stream of his colleagues exiting. They were on their phones with aides and family members, sharing the news. Theyd be coming home for the holidays since the House was in a state of chaos. Some of them, however, seemed bewildered by the turn of events. They walked slowly down the basement hallway, whispering with other members. One freshman asked a senior member, Are we really not coming back? The senior member simply nodded. Almost everyone avoided the press. Feelings were raw. Representative Steve King of Iowa, a frequent Boehner critic, looked at me, shook his head, and said, I have nothing to say.
Boehner and his leadership team soon departed. Kevin McCarthy, the GOP whip, who hours earlier was meeting with on-the-fence members over Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his office, left the Capitol looking distressed. So did Eric Cantor, the majority leader, who had spent the past two days wooing backbenchers. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Budget Committee chairman and recent Republican vice-presidential candidate, strolled out of the Capitol with Representative Tom Price of Georgia, a popular conservative who has expressed his unhappiness with Boehners cliff strategy. The pair declined to discuss the drama, but they both looked tired and frustrated.
Upstairs by the House floor, which was now closed after Boehners announcement, a handful of senior members discussed the whip count. They decided to go out for drinks near Union Station, in order to avoid their colleagues whod be hanging at the Capitol Hill Club on the House side. I dont want to talk to the people who ruined this, at least right now, a retiring House member told me. They dont get it. Another senior member told me that Boehner was always going to struggle with the whip count since most House conservatives have little interest in seeing the speaker strike any kind of deal. Boehner was trying to play chess and the caucus was playing checkers, he said, sighing. Boehner is willing to lose a pawn for a queen. Im not sure about the rest.
Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a conservative with libertarian leanings, was stunned. As he walked back to his office, he said the episode was unfortunate, even though he was planning to vote against the measure. For the past month, since House leaders booted him off the budget committee, he has been railing against Boehner for his management style. But even Amash wondered whether the House GOP was making the right move. Too many people in there were arguing that this thing is a tax increase, and I dont think thats what Boehner was trying to do, he said. As much as he disagrees with Boehners approach, even he regretted how the speakers plan was killed.
Aides to House leaders stayed later than their bosses, talking to reporters and trying to spin the collapse of Plan B as something better than a complete failure. As the clock neared 9 p.m., they tried mightily to project strength, but the energy among all Republicans, members and staffers, was sapped. There were no upbeat talking points, no chummy gaggle. This is a talkative bunch of people, but on this dreary night, not so much.
Their deflated spirits were understandable. Earlier in the evening, House Republicans appeared to be close to passing Plan B with the requisite 217 votes. There are 241 Republicans in the House, and Boehner could risk 24 defections. In the final public whip count, which was documented by The Hill, fewer than 20 conservative members were opposed to the plan. But things began to fall apart in the early evening, when the margin on a spending vote was narrow. That vote was part of Boehners Plan B package, and a replacement for the defense sequester. Since that vote was narrow, the vote on Boehners larger plan to extend most tax rates would probably be even narrower, leadership aides predicted.
So, GOP leaders called for a recess, and spent the dinner hour doing a final try for 217. All day, McCarthys whips were very nervous about where Plan B stood, but for the most part, they didnt let their uneasiness show. They thought that Boehner would find a way to get there. Boehner, who rarely gets involved in the whip process, spent Wednesday night on the House floor, shaking hands and talking with members, asking them for their support. He also went to a meeting of McCarthys whips, and encouraged them to make a hard sell.
But when conservatives, over and over again, refused to budge, Boehner personally decided to end the entire thing and pull it from the floor. If he didnt have the support of his conference on his own plan, hed walk away. Hed leave the fiscal cliff in the hands of Democrats. Boehner had spent weeks negotiating with his members and the president. But in this final hour, when he needed Republicans most, he had only a prayer.
Robert Costa is National Reviews Washington editor.
This was an interesting read, but as I went on an on, I started thinking to myself, wait a minute. Boehner is no great calculating strategist. He’s no victim. Please! We’re at this point becuase of his feckless leadership. The National Review has gone around the bend when it comes to real conservatism.
Maybe making bad decisions about committee assignment set the tone of this and future agreements.
When some insight was needed Costas came up with it. Thanks for the posting
The seeds were sown when Boner came up with the Fiscal Cliff deal in the first place.
Sometimes kicking the can down the road puts the kicker in the ditch.
>>>> They dont get it. Another senior member told me that Boehner was always going to struggle with the whip count since most House conservatives have little interest in seeing the speaker strike any kind of deal. Boehner was trying to play chess and the caucus was playing checkers, he said, sighing. Boehner is willing to lose a pawn for a queen. Im not sure about the rest. <<<<<
Tell me again, what would Boehner gain?
Boehner’s problem is that he THINKS he’s trading a pawn for a queen. Who esle with a sane mind thinks that?
Boner crippled himself, starting with the purge.
We are this point because of OBAMA
the newly-elected potus has more power than John Boehner and Boehner has no army smart enough to defeat him, even tactically
What we end up with will be because of OBAMA, not Boehner or any other man
I dont believe these gentlemanly dupes of the ol’ boys club ever calculated that a man like OBAMA would be the president of the US
Since the GOP can’t control him it is up to the democrats to man up and become adults- if there are any patriots left
And so grumbles the GOP-E...
And let’s get it through once and for all,
It is not ‘conservatives won’t deal’, it is OBAMA.
BINGO! the whole scenario was set up by Boner, Reid, and McConnell, who were trying to circumvent the TEA Party freshmen in 2011. Boner therefore has been hoisted on his own petard.
The fun part is that Boner and Cantor are going to try to twist arms to pass Obama and Reid’s plan in the House. Any GOP member voting for the Obama-Reid plan is going to PRIMARIED.
So what happens to this part (Sequestration)? Since it was already passed, will it go on or is it dead because it was part of a package?
Exactly right. With no meaningful spending reductions, all the Tax talk, 2%, middle-class crap means nothing. Just a giant smokescreen.
What is Bobbie at NR pushing press releases for bonner !
This lobbyist front man held secret meetings , did ruthless purges ,
Worried about the K st pork and shows open hatred of conservatives .
And bonner is a victim !
He is a DC insider stooge who reaped what he sowed !
Boner crippled himself, starting with the purge.
Short and to the point....Perfect
“We are this point because of OBAMA”
Nonsense. Speaker Bohener has continually chosen to “negotiate” a deal, i.e. a piece of legislation with the president. That is not how our government works. The president should not play any part in the crafting of legislation except perhaps making calls to individual members or suggesting amendments.
The House is its own entity. It is not a subset of the presidency. The House as a body does not need to check in with the president to find out what he will sign or what he wants. The president can sign it or not sign it when a final bill gets to him.
What he have been seeing is an intentional undermining of regular legislative order, which preserves liberty. In the debt-ceiling deal, Boehner, Reid and Obama acted like oligarchs. They met together in a room and decided what would happen, then strong-armed it into law, representative government and the people be damned. And Reid is acting as a shield to Obama because he won’t bring any bill the House passes to the floor of the Senate, or he does so it get’s voted down. He won’t allow any bill to be amended.
And Bohener has gone along with this, because he’s too weak to say “The House of Representatives will not deal with the president. We will pass bills under regular order and send them to the Senate. If the Senate chooses not to take them up, or amend them, there is nothing I can do. The House and Senate will never get to confernece to agree and the president will not receive any bill and the government will shut down if necessary.”
Seppuku is the only route left Boner. New blood is needed in the leadership. Leadership with backbone and the willing to tell the Washington elite to Go to Hellllllll.
Boner, and his “leadership” team, were willing to sacrifice “millionaires” on the deal-making alter this go-round, which begs the question—Who would be sacrificed next?
When you screw over a part of your contingent (conservatives) eventually they will screw over you.
Most kids in grade school know that.
Boehner attacked Conservatives and got it stuck up his backside.
Conservative don’t want to give away the store and Boehner appears willing to do it.
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