Rage Against the Extreme

November 9th, 2012

Inspired by Boehner opens door to ‘new revenue’ to curb debt (Lori Montgomery, WashingtonPost.com 11/07/12), After Obama wins, overtures on debt: Boehner opens door to a deal (Zach Goldfarb and Lori Montgomery, Washington Post 11/08/12 A1), GOP tax-rate stand toughens debt-deal talks (Paul Kane and David Fahrenthold, Washington Post 11/09/12 A1), and Obama, Boehner again prepare to tackle debt (Lori Montgomery and Zach Goldfarb, Washington Post 11/09/12 A8), here’s my brilliant idea (if I say so myself) to strengthen Speaker Boehner against his extreme Tea Party wing in order to allow negotiation of a new Grand Bargain. 

 

“Boehner could on his own agree to [a deal including revenues], in fact he did, but he couldn’t…get the Tea Party to go along without a mutiny.” — David Corn yesterday on Now
 
“I think John Boehner still got 99 problems. Well at least 80 of them.” – Joy Reid
 
“You don’t need those 99 Tea Partyites. This doesn’t have to pass with 90%. This has to pass with 51% in the House. And we can get those votes if Boehner works hard.” – former PA Gov. Ed Rendell
 
 “I think the Speaker has one of the hardest jobs in Washingtonand I think that’s in evidence now more than ever. I think the question is, if he does end up striking a Grand Bargain with the White House, does he hold onto his Speakership?” – Alex Wagner today on Now
 
“The trick will be if Speaker Boehner’s instincts to preserve the Republican Party and preserve the nation, in a certain sense, will prevail over the hard right. He needs some help.” – Sen. Chuck Schumer this morning on Morning Joe

 

Pundits talk as if we can’t do a thing

About Speaker Boehner’s recalcitrantTeaParty wing.

“The Speaker could cut a deal if it weren’t for them”

(Too bad the House didn’t go Dem).

 

What if it were possible to do an end run

And give Speaker Boehner more room to run?

Wouldn’t isolating the Tea Party be fun?

Then let’s try something that’s never been done.

 

What could that be, you want to know?

Then read my brilliant idea below:

It’s a new way to weaken the radical group which progress impedes

And give Speaker Boehner the help he needs.

***

Here are Now’s 11/08/12 and 11/09/12 panel discussions, followed by Sen. Schumer this morning on Morning Joe. Speaker John Boehner has so far been unable (or unwilling) to confront his Tea Party wing. He has so feared right-wing Republican revolt (justifiably, given that Eric Cantor has been constantly scheming against him) that he has managed his Speakership to the lowest-common-denominator (i.e., the Tea Party).

In what’s probably the most notable example, Boehner could have pushed through the $4 trillion dollar deficit deal if he’d been willing to do so without most (or all) of his Tea Party wing. That may have required him to rely on Dem votes to pass that deal, and may have left him open to the loss of his speakership.

The solution: the Democratic Party leadership should enter into an agreement with Boehner not only to provide the necessary votes to pass the legislation in question, but also to step in and lend their votes to help Boehner withstand any resulting GOP insurrection. That would mean that the Dem Party leadership would deliver Democratic votes for John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

Boehner  won’t face a vote to remain Speaker until after the fiscal cliff is resolved (or crossed), so this would empower him to push an agreement through the House (with the assistance of Dem votes, of course, which Nancy Pelosi and the President would be responsible for delivering). What’s the downside? None. Dems don’t have enough votes to vote for their own Speaker anyway: it will either be Boehner, or if not, probably someone much more extreme.

What if Boehner doesn’t play ball and there is no agreement during the lame duck? Then this bipartisan centrist alliance could switch from a shield to a sword, electing as Speaker someone  willing to take a stand against the Tea Party in order to reach a deal. Dems would join non-Tea Party Republicans to elect that Republican leader as Speaker, and then join in defending his/her Speakership if it was threatened by the Tea Party after a deal. Or as a further twist: elect a non-partisan Speaker, possibly even someone from outside of the House (that’s never been done before, but is permissible under the Constitution).

In addition to the immediate political impact, this bipartisan alliance would have a major beneficial impact on restoring some degree of inter-party comity in the House, and would greatly strengthen centrists in both parties. This approach would also go along way towards restoring public and financial market confidence in Congress from its current all-time lows, especially if coupled with a Grand Bargain that stabilized America’s fisque. The stock market, consumer confidence, business confidence, and the economy as a whole would likely experience major gains as a result.

Note that it might not even be necessary to actually implement the crossover—standing ready to do so if necessary might be enough to strengthen the Speaker’s hand and deter a Tea Party attack. But if necessary, that alliance would step in…and change history. And while this would itself be a historic event, it would actually be a return to our Constitutional roots: John Boehner (or whoever succeeds him) is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, i.e., the whole House, and not just the House’s Republicans members, and that’s the kind of bipartisan leadership that the public is calling for. So not only would this bipartisan alliance improve Congress’s standing—it would also improve Speaker Boehner’s standing.

As far as I know, this has never been done before. In the rare cases that House members vote for someone other than their party’s candidate, it’s almost always another member of their own party. The last time a member crossed party lines to vote for the other party’s candidate was in 2000 when Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) voted for Republican Dennis Hastert, in response to which the Dem leadership stripped him of his seniority and committee positions. This would however be the first time that members crossed over en masse with the blessing of their party leadership. And that’s what makes it such a potentially brilliant way to help break the logjam.
 

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