Yes, America’s tiring soap opera has reached the end of its run (well, sort’ve). Fiscalcliffmas ’12/’13 is all but a memory in what became an exercise in legislative futility. Now the fact that some type of a deal has been passed puts a likely end to all future discourse regarding tax rates but a few fights remain on the horizon with spending cuts, the debt ceiling and sequestering both in America’s future.
There are plenty of places to discuss and read about the pros and cons of this deal. The extension of unemployment benefits is a good thing for us progressives but to others the fact that “only” $600 billion of new revenues was generated is fairly frustrating. President Obama campaigned on $1.6 trillion, bumped down to $1.2 trillion as Speaker John Boehner asked for $800 billion. The end game was less than Boehner’s negotiated spiel.
But after the failure of the so-called “Plan B” deal before it even hit the floor, the eyes of the nation have been focused more on the soap opera that is Republican leadership.
Boehner has been embattled over the course of his tenure as Speaker. After taking over for Nancy Pelosi following the 2010 midterm elections, Boehner’s legacy appears to be rather unimpressive. His goals have appeared to be erratic and inconsistent and the 112th Congress’s main “successes” have been futile appeals of the Affordable Care Act and obstructionism of every single proposed bill the Democrats have proposed.
Now it should not be a shock to anybody about the actions of Boehner’s Congress. After being trounced in 2006 and 2008, the Republicans were left reeling as President Obama rode a wave of public disapproval of the Republican Party and his own surging popularity. Yet that all failed and while the Republicans obliterated the Democrats in 2010, they still wound up short of taking the Senate and the Oval Office.
So what do they do? They obstructed which is a fairly easy thing to do when you own a majority of the House. But laying underneath their unified obstructionism emerged a sparring over what to do afterwards.
The eventual answer was nothing.
Yet the one biggest highlight, other than the obvious of the bill passing both the Senate and the House, appears to be the quarrels going on in the House Republican leadership.
It’s not very common to see the Speaker of the House vote on a bill that is taken to the floor. Usually that’s reserved for fairly big deals. Tonight though John Boehner voted “YEA” on the bill to avoid the fiscal cliff. That is noteworthy for this very other cause.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor voted “NAY”.
Now it’s no real secret that John Boehner and Eric Cantor are two different politicians, even if they have accomplished virtually the same thing. Boehner is much more laidback in his leadership styles and often appears to be detached from the proceedings. Cantor on the other hand is a lot more poised and is a very ambitious politician that seems to have keen political senses.
Boehner is one that would possibly entertain the idea of bipartisan compromising even though he appears to be quite lacking in the ability of gaining his own party’s approval for most deals. Cantor, not so much.
Eric Cantor appears to be trying to tap into the disgruntled Tea Party bastion of the Republican Party to drive Boehner out of his role as Speaker of the House. The same bastion that Boehner gladly hugged and touted when the Republican Party was sensing blood-in-the-water over the Democratic Party in the 111th Congress.
But if Cantor is really going to try and vie for dismissing John Boehner, he’s going to have to do it with a bit of help especially when it comes to leadership if tonight’s vote is of any relevance. Paul Ryan, who co-authored the book “Young Guns” with Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, voted “YEA” on the bill. McCarthy, another ambitious young politician, also voted “NAY” and could be a powerful ally for Cantor.
Remember McCarthy, Ryan and Cantor were all invited (and conversed) with conservative pollster Frank Luntz to discuss ways to return the Republican Party back to power. It’s worth noting that Speaker Boehner did not have an invitation sent his way.
Also of note, voting for the Speaker is not like voting for an election. The House votes for a leader and it’s not who gets the most votes (for those secretly hoping for a return of Pelosi to the seat due to a fractured vote) but the one person who gets a plurality of the vote. So it would be a fairly courageous thing for Cantor to do, but then again, the past few weeks Cantor has been a bit of a rogue when it comes to the Republican Party.
Is it likely we see Speaker Cantor? I’d say no and it would take Boehner’s retirement or some scandal to emerge for that to be a better possibility. Nonetheless though, we have seen the continuation of the Republican Civil War when it comes to the House GOP.
I think it’s also safe to assume that future battles are just another bill taken under hostage away as well.