Speaker Boehner wants to have a conversation.
The Speaker spent the better part of a recent press conference whining about the president’s refusal to negotiate over the government shutdown and the debt limit. He referenced several instances in our country’s history where the parties have used the debt ceiling to negotiate matters of ideology.
The President has consistently said that he will not negotiate with Speaker Boehner until after the debt ceiling is raised and the government is re-opened. Boehner likens this to demanding the “unconditional surrender” of the Republican Party. “There WILL be a negotiation” the Speaker declared.
Boehner wants a play date. So far the President has refused.
And why SHOULD the President negotiate with the Speaker. To what end?
When the Speaker was providing the historical reference under which the parties used the debt ceiling to force compromise, he failed to mention that in each of the examples he referenced, the parties seated at the bargaining table had the power to bring their caucus in line in support of the agreement. Speaker Boehner has shown repeatedly that he holds no such power over his caucus.
In 2011 Boehner and the President reached a “Grand Bargain” over the debt and deficit only to watch the Tea Party embarrass the Speaker by refusing to go along.
As recently as two months ago, the Speaker, the Senate and the White House agreed on a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government by cutting $80 billion from the current sequestration levels. Boehner promised to bring a “clean” CR to the floor at the agreed amount. Once again the Speaker was forced to tuck his tail when Tea Party members refused to agree to any CR that did not include the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (a law whose funding mechanism was set up completely separate from the CR to avoid just such a move by the president’s opponents.)
Time and time again, the Speaker has shown that holds no power over his caucus. The President knows that. So why would the President keep playing Charlie Brown to Boehner’s Lucy?
If Boehner wants to have a serious conversation with the President, he needs to prove that he is in control of his caucus. One way to do that would be to defy the Tea Party minority and bring a clean CR to the floor at the agreed upon July figures. The measure would pass with bi-partisan support and give Boehner the credibility he needs to show that his words have meaning.
Boehner is bad at his job...this much is clear.
If he wants to play with the President he has to bring something new to the game.
Otherwise it’s just more of Lucy and the football.