Boehner gives in to right in budget fight
House Speaker John Boehner knows the plan he unveiled cannot pass the Senate and may prove unwise politically and economically, but with conservative forces uniting against him, he saw no alternative but to capitulate.
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — After three years of cajoling, finessing and occasionally strong-arming his fitful conservative majority, House Speaker John Boehner waved the white flag Wednesday, surrendering to demands from his right flank that he tie money to keep the government open after Sept. 30 to stripping President Obama’s health-care law of any financing.
“The law’s a train wreck,” he said. “It’s time to protect American families from this unworkable law.”
Boehner knows the spending plan cannot pass the Senate and may prove unwise politically and economically. His leadership team pressed just last week for an alternative. But with conservative forces uniting against him, he saw no alternative but to capitulate — and few good options to stop a government shutdown in two weeks.
“Today was a step forward, and a win for the American people,” said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., whose “defund Obamacare” push had amassed 80 House supporters, a bloc large enough to dictate the outcome in the House.
With much of the government set to run out of money at the end of the month — and run out of borrowing authority by mid-October — Boehner faced a choice: He could find a way out of his fiscal dead end with Republican and Democratic votes, or he could yield to a conservative movement to strip the Affordable Care Act of financing, unite his Republican majority around that war cry and hope for the best. House conservatives let Boehner know any solution that could not attract a majority of the Republican conference could cost him his speakership. Divided Senate Republicans made clear that linking further government spending or a debt-ceiling increase to gutting the health-care law would never get through the Senate.
The House stopgap spending measure would finance the government through Dec. 15 at current levels, which reflect the automatic cuts that took effect in March, known as sequestration, while blocking the health-care law, under which the uninsured will be enrolled beginning Oct. 1.
If the bill clears the House on Friday, Republican leaders could put forward a measure soon that would raise the government’s statutory borrowing limit. That bill also would take aim at the Affordable Care Act, with a one-year delay of its provisions coupled with a one-year increase in the debt ceiling. It also would expedite construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Louisiana and set a timeline for an overhaul of the federal tax code, and possibly include some other Republican wishes, such as specific spending cuts and regulatory changes.
For Boehner, the announcement was a humbling moment, possibly a defining one. Since the tea-party wave swept Republicans to power in the House in 2010, he has often been at odds with the most conservative wing of his conference. As has been the case with each fiscal crisis since, Boehner’s decision was an embrace of short-term tactics over long-term strategy.
How either the spending or the debt-limit measures will become law is anybody’s guess.