Obama Fractures House GOP Caucus
After John Boehner flamed out in getting his "Plan B" approved by his own caucus, he dropped the problem back in the Senate's lap and told them to lead. Now that Mitch McConnell stepped up to do Boehner's work for him, the House GOP caucus is revolting against both Boehner and McConnell and threatening to blow up the deal. MSNBC is reporting this afternoon that Boehner, after seeing both Eric Cantor and now Paul Ryan rise up to oppose the deal, wants the caucus to take two votes: the first to scuttle the hugely-bipartisan (89-8) deal and replace it with the sure-to-be-rejected House demand for $330 billion in cuts to all programs except defense. Boehner would in essence be calling the bluff of his own caucus by forcing them to go on the record with a vote that clearly would risk the whole thing. If this didn't pass, Boehner got the caucus to agree that he could bring up the Senate version for a vote, which clearly would need Democratic votes as well as dozens of Republicans.
The outcome regardless fractured the House GOP two days before the House leadership election and the arrival of a new Congress with more Democrats in both houses. You'll recall that some of us predicted that Boehner's failure on Plan B would cost him his speakership, even though the Beltway pundits since then kept telling us that he would survive. Sure. Some of these pundits now tell us that Obama sabotaged his own deal yesterday without understanding that Obama got what he wanted with the deal and his tone yesterday: he guaranteed a House GOP implosion. If the House GOP caucus can get the votes to scuttle the Senate deal, with Ryan and now Cantor fully out in front of that effort, it pushes them so far to the right that they are on an island the next two years, ready to take the rest of the GOP with them in 2014. If they can't get the votes for their own plan, then Boehner has to come crawling to Nancy Pelosi. Either way, the GOP is screwed.
Senate Democrats have already put the House GOP on notice that if they amend and send back a hugely-bipartisan bill demanding those cuts, then the fiscal curb deal is off, and the GOP can take the full blame for the resulting reaction from the markets and the nation's taxpayers. If this takes place, Obama can simply wait for the carnage and smoke to clear from the GOP leadership election, knowing that whomever emerges from the mess has no national power to control anything while getting the full blame for what befalls investors and taxpayers. The schism between the GOP caucuses in each house will be on full display, and Democrats will wait for the next Congress with more of their kind to try again with a package less generous than what Biden just gave McConnell.
Any bill the House GOP sends back to the Senate will be without Democratic votes, after the Senate sent the House a bill with nearly 90 votes in favor. An extremist minority of the House would be trying to impose its gerrymandered will upon a majority of the United States Congress, and would be demonstrating to the country their willingness to push the problem to the new Congress and toss the country and the markets into uncertainty just so the extremist minority gets its way.
And yet this minority and their newly-crowned leaders Cantor and Ryan would have us believe they have the support nationally to take the country hostage in February on the debt ceiling to extort cuts in politically-popular programs like Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, veteran's affairs, and other safety net programs? Suppose Ryan or Cantor topple Boehner in the GOP caucus vote later this week. Are both of them so certain that they can get enough votes to become Speaker?
And if they can't, who suddenly becomes the most powerful person in the House? That's right, the lady from San Francisco.
Update #1 (5 PM Pacific): After watching his chief lieutenant go against Mitch McConnell and signal to the Tea Party loons that he stood with the extremists against an 89-8 bipartisan package, John Boehner forced Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan to go find the 218 votes to scuttle the Senate bill and toss the country into turmoil. MSNBC is reporting at this hour that Cantor failed to find the votes. As a result, Boehner will have the Senate bill voted on at 9 PM Eastern time to see if 218 votes can be found, largely Democratic ones, and send it to the president's desk.
No one should minimize what happened today in the House GOP caucus. Boehner told Cantor and Ryan, after they went public with their opposition to a 89-8 vote in the Senate, to bear the burden of their rhetoric and round up the votes. They couldn't, but still managed to poke McConnell and perhaps Boehner in the eye, days before the new leadership election.
There are now open wounds within the GOP, so the notion that a united GOP can extort the president and hold the country hostage on the debt ceiling seems a little more remote tonight.
Update #2 (11 PM Eastern): The House passed the Senate bill 257-187, notably with 85 GOP members crossing over to heed the wishes of both the House and Senate GOP leadership. It is also notable that in the end, John Boehner and Paul Ryan voted for the Senate bill, while Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy voted with the extremists willing to let the markets ravage the economy tomorrow. As I said earlier, there are splits in the GOP caucus.