John Boehner’s Unhappy Holidays

The so-far insurmountable problem for House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama as they try to reach a budget deal is that nothing matters more to Republicans than fighting taxes.

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Brendan Hoffman / The New York Times / Redux

House Speaker John Boehner speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Dec. 20, 2012.

John Boehner is hard to decipher. His public persona is generally affectless, unperturbed. Things are fine, business is getting done, the prognosis good. Until he starts bawling.

Boehner has misted up in public so many times that it wouldn’t have been shocking to see him shed tears at the press conference he held Friday morning to explain why he was unable to orchestrate a successful House vote on his “Plan B” to avoid the fiscal cliff. Instead he was composed behind a mask of calm and control. The only sign of tension was his tight squint, as though he were recoiling from the pack of reporters wanting to know why he’d lost control of his House Republican conference, whether he can survive as House Speaker, and how a solution to the “fiscal cliff” can be achieved. “How we get there, God only knows,” Boehner conceded.

The first question–why Boehner lost control in what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called a “travesty”–is blurry. On Thursday, Boehner said he had the votes for a measure that would allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on Jan. 1 only for people making more than a million dollars a year. (A companion measure shifting planned Pentagon cuts onto other domestic programs did pass, barely.)  On Friday, Boehner lamented that a “perception” was “created” by unnamed (but obvious) actors “that the vote was going to increase taxes.” His rebellious members, who informed him shortly before the vote that they were not going to support his plan “were dealing with the perception that someone might accuse them of raising taxes.”

And that goes right to the heart of things. The so-far insurmountable problem for Boehner and for President Barack Obama as they try to reach a budget deal that avoids the fiscal cliff is that nothing matters more to Republicans than fighting taxes. Think back to the GOP primary debate last winter when not a single candidate onstage, not even Jon Huntsman, would raise a hand in support of an hypothetical budget plan featuring a 10:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax hikes. The same thinking prevails within Boehner’s conference. Not raising taxes is the modern Republican’s Hippocratic oath.

At his press conference Friday, Boehner wasn’t able to offer a path forward. Rather than dwell on his own party’s problems, he pointed his finger at Democrats. President Obama, Boehner charged, “won’t deal honestly” with spending and entitlements. Later in the day, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also put the onus on the White House, calling this “a moment that calls for presidential leadership.” But Obama feels like he has made Boehner an honest offer, and the just re-elected president isn’t in a mood to compromise much further.

That doesn’t mean a budget disaster is inevitable. Paradoxically, a brief dive over the cliff–something leaders from both parties have long said privately they are resigned to–could be the easiest way to solve the problem. That’s because, once the Bush tax cuts expire, Republicans can vote to cut them from their new, higher level–thereby adhering to their sacred tax-cutting oath. President Obama supports eliminating higher taxes on the middle class, and might even accept slightly less-high rates on the wealthiest Americans if Republicans limit their demands for spending cuts. In theory this can all be done relatively quickly, before the fiscal cliff’s tax hikes and spending cuts have time to do real damage to the economy. (Signs of an improving economy, including today’s upward revision in third-quarter GDP growth to 3.1 %, make things easier; the faster the economy is growing, the less budgetary pain required to reduce the debt.)

Still, Boehner’s path forward remains unclear. Even if there’s a plausible resolution in January, Boehner doesn’t want House Republicans to be blamed if January comes and there’s no deal, possibly slamming the stock market and spooking ordinary Americans. After Thursday night, it certainly looks as though the GOP is playing something less than a constructive role.

Speaking Friday, President Obama said he still believed a deal could be reached.“So call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done,” he told the press before departing for Hawaii with his family. Both  he and Boehner say they’ll be back in Washington after the holiday to try again.

But what happens then? “There is no plan,” Republican Congressman Jeff Flake told TIME’s Alex Rogers at the Capitol last night. “[Boehner's] doing the best he can.” So far, it hasn’t been good enough. It’s almost enough to make a grown man weep.

105 comments
DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

Boehner and McConnell now are asking Obama to do what they themselves can't: fashion a plan that satisfies the Republican far right wing.  

Obama, of course, isn't playing ball.  If the GOP doesn't want to allow taxes to rise for the wealthiest Americans, taxes will go up for us all.  That is, the GOP has clearly, unmistakably said that they are willing to risk the financial situations of 98% of Americans to support the opulence of the wealthiest 2%.

Republicans will go around chanting like sheep, "We don't have a tax problem.  We have a spending problem."  But we didn't have either when Bush2 took over: we had a $350B surplus.  Republican tax cuts turned that into a (total) $5T increased debt.  Sorry, guys, we have a tax problem: the wealthiest pay too little.

roknsteve
roknsteve

So if all the Democrats and 51% of Republicans, which is 70% of the House, agree to a bill then they don't hold a vote on it because the other 49% of the crazies are against it?  

lurch
lurch

We need to go over the cliff. I'm sick of the GOP trying to bring America to it's knees to a lobbyist & his no tax on the rich bit. Don't pay any attention to the great big debt Bush's 2 wars and bank bailouts. 

Squeeze the sick, elderly, poor and disabled to pay for the rich mans wars.

MichaelGutierrez
MichaelGutierrez

we need a third party, to be a member you can only make up to $200'000.00 a year and care about the poor, tired, and overworked and underpaid citizens in your community. be real these politicians don't give a hoot about you unless you contribute to their campaigns. first order of business should be outlawing contributions, run on your merits as they did 236 years ago.

KentR
KentR

So  pick your poison are Republicans  the ScrOOge   before he learns the spirit of  giving to poor and infirm  and needy of the world,   
The Mr Potter  of its a wonderful life  that hid the deposit that was mistakenly  mishandled by the befuddled  uncle  with a slipping memory or The Grinch that tried to pull all the happiness of the working people  that knew the true spirit of Christmas regardless of the  glitter  of the Things  that physical  gifts are for the spiritual gifts that they could not take from the heart of  the people  sharing what they did have one with another..   The outward represntations of  the show of love are worthless  really without  a care and love for another  the tokcains  or  gifts with early value  are nice but  without true meaning if its not a gift of the heart as well..

namro
namro

Clearly there are few members of the GOPTP caucus with courage and integrity.  They lack the decency to understand that they represent the entire country's governance, not just their narrow-minded constituents.  The economy and the majority of the 99% don't matter to them.  All they want is tax cuts (for the wealthy and for the corporatocracy), more guns for the vigilates out there (and which make it easier for the "bad guys" and nutcases to get them), more wars against anybody so as to show American power, an end to abortion rights and to human rights for homosexuals.  That's the GOPTP!

Increased taxes on the wealthy, the ceos and the hedge fund managers are vital to economic health.  Worker rights to union representation are vital to the economy - which is based on consumption, for which people need disposable income.  Spending can be reduced by eliminating all the subsidies given to profitable corporations and industries, and by eliminating wasteful and excessive military spending.  Spending can also be reduced by eliminating "pork barrel" expenditures.

Finally, the US can be "the shining city on the hill" by respecting everyone's human rights, caring for the poor and the sick, and by not following the wishes of the Koch brothers and their ilk.

fitty_three
fitty_three

If Cantor takes over I'm sure that he'll be just as effective.

itzme2
itzme2

They managed to pass a vote shifting the Pentagon cuts to domestic programs. The wealthiest have invested heavily and have much to gain from defense spending, and do not want their taxes raised.I read where they send a message to their puppets in office of how they want them to vote. If they do not vote how they want tem to, they will receive an avalanche of negative ads when they are up for re-election. Now the bought and paid for politicians are hiding behind some sacred oath; the hypocritic oath.

Ivanoufnouhg
Ivanoufnouhg

Nothing will be done in Washington until the people and press put pressure on BOTH sides.

The President ran on a platform of 800 billion in new revenues balanced by "responsible" reductions in spending.

Once he won the election he decided that his 'mandate' (aka 51% of the vote) warranted a new stance of 1.6 trillion in new revenues and no spending cuts.


I've no issue with the President chasing what he wants. I disagree with him not for humanitarian reasons but because we, as a country, simply do not have the money (Even the President's plan of 1.6 trillion in new revenue would reduce the annual deficit be less than 15%).


I do have an issue with people pretending that everything would be just hunky dory if we stuck the Republicans in a closet and let the Democrats raise taxes on the rich to their hearts content. A marginal tax of 100% of individuals making in excess of 250K would fund government for 60 days. Given that and our current level of spending, who is going to fund government for the remaining 10 months of the year?

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

Boehner's days are numbered. He's up for majority leader reelection come Jan 3rd The first knife in his back will be Cantors. merry xmas DC style

LesMoore
LesMoore

What a snarky article - reporters show us how worldly you are by being jaded.

jtchun777
jtchun777

James Deans came back. What a manly gut. More women should advance to political power. In situations men think complicated they often find ways easily. Believe me.

ponderlicious
ponderlicious

What a joke the US government it is. We spent the last two years suffering through the longest election I can ever remember, only to end up right back where we started, with this freak show of B and O going back and forth forever. And ending with a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing, nada, zilch. How did B ever get to be such a pivotal character? He looks serious, but he can't get anything done. In a sense, he's worse than O. 

I think the Republicans have pretty well established themselves as the party of the rich now...taxes will go up on everyone because they didn't want to put any increase on those making more than a million dollars a year...the tricklers, I guess you could call them. So now we all  get the screws. Unbelievable.

The level of disconnected incompetence is mind boggling. If B is the face of the Republican party, then its ugly, and I really hope the Republican party collapses under the sheer weight of its ineptitude. I am embarrassed as an American that these are my representatives. The never-ending polemics will be the end of this country as we know it. There's no excuse for these ongoing failures. No excuse whatsover.

DrinkerOfTheRye
DrinkerOfTheRye

Hopeless optimist, isn't that a contradiction of terms?

StewartCockrell
StewartCockrell

Frankly, I don't want to point fingers at who got us in the mess.  I want to see some fracking action by both sides.  It is almost like these grown men and woman are acting like fracking four year olds.  Except i have seen four year olds compromise more.  It's going to be painful for both sides, but both sides need to make some concessions.  This new era of just not working together for the sake of it is getting really old. 

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

Um, it's oh so easy to point the finger at Boehner and his anti-tax comrades. But the last I checked, sitting across the isle is Obama, who said Plan B was DOA, veto-able. That's odd. Here we have the Republican's offering up real tax increases, not those pesky tax reform measures that no one could be pinned down to anything close to specific and certainly analogous to political suicide. So now the ball is back in Obama's hands. If we go over the cliff, it's his fault. But wait. What if all this is nothing more than Boehner's near final political  maneuvering? What if Obama counters to $500K and Boehner makes a final offer of $650 that Boehner and his ardent anti-tax club will accept. Ultimately, it's about getting the tax increase as far away from $250K as possible, no? I for one will be surprised if we go over the cliff. At this point, it's nothing more than political theater, especially with Time pundits acting like they're the smartest guys in the room.

JohnYuEsq
JohnYuEsq

RECALL Republicans. THROW THE BUMS OUT!

GlenJones
GlenJones

I think what is being missed (and misreported by the press) is that we are not on the edge of a fiscal cliff.  Economists agree that it wouldn't be the best thing, but any damage would be gradual and could be addressed next year if Congress could constructively do anything.  That is the real problem and both sides are to blame.  Any intelligent person realizes a lot of reforms are needed to keep America from sinking, including entitlement, pension, healthcare and tax reform to name a few.

tiresias
tiresias

saw a great sign at an occupy event last year: "the only thing that trickles down is boehner's tears"

La_Randy
La_Randy

"After Thursday night, it certainly looks as though the GOP is playing something less than a constructive role."

Now that is funny!

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

Boehner will cry for hours if the war on marijuana lets up for a few minutes.


rogerwabbit
rogerwabbit

"His public persona is generally affectless, unperturbed." Doesn't brownish orange skin and frequently cries in public count as affectations?

gysgt213
gysgt213

Who has the Speaker's back guys and gals?  Anyone?

StanHughes
StanHughes

The house sent the senate a bill to extend tax cuts to all Americans.  It has been sitting on Harry Reid's desk for months. he has refused to even bring it up for a votes.  If there is a cause for us going over cliff it is one created by dems

Heian
Heian

@DavidStrayer To be clear, it was a tax and a spending problem with Bush. He cut taxes and went to war, at the same time. Which is pretty much unprecedented in history.

 Bush said, have your cake and eat it too! And now we're deep in cake-debt, and that anyone is unclear why astonishes me.

notsacredh
notsacredh

fitty , could that possibly be a snark?

notsacredh
notsacredh

"Things are fine, business is getting done, the prognosis good. Until he starts bawling."

.

You mean like the above?

.


 

tom.litton
tom.litton

@StewartCockrell The problem seems to be the well financed, tea party backed, conservative institutions.  They threaten to back other candidates if they don't get there way, and often succeed.  Hence the mention of Heritage foundation, etc.  

 All of these institutions seem to only care about taxes, which makes me curious who finances them.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

worleyeoe,  Obama was very specific regarding his spending cuts while Boehner wanted more cuts without being specific.  Tax increases on $1 million sounds nice, but that includes only .19% of the population and only after the first million.  Boehner has only himself to blame.  He assumed he would have a Republican president and a Republican senate and he lost.  Most of the cuts are in defense.  Why would he agree to that in the summer if he thought Obama would win?  The Republicans have more to lose because they have constantly shown bad faith.  The speaker and the President had a grand bargain, with meaningful cuts only to have the Republican House tell Boehner "no".  The Republicans in the House would rather be right in "principle" even if it drags down the economy.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@worleyeoe And what if, as has been demonstrated, the House republicans refuse to endorse any tax rate increase for anyone at anytime? 

Reconcile yourself to the "cliff". 

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

He'll cry for days if the tanning salon closes for maintenance.

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

@gysgt213 Big tobacco, big pharma, big alcohol, big prisons, and anyone else who proftis from the drug war.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@StanHughes Bringing up a republican budget in a democratic senate is a waste of time.  It wouldn't pass anyways.

downteap2
downteap2

@StanHughes Nice no-fact, right-wing attack. The Republicans wanted this vote, They asked for it and they lost their own members. Do you blame your wife for problems you create. Oh, yeah... guess that's a poor analogy for a Tea Bag.

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

@Heian @DavidStrayer  

Yes, you're right.  And there's a lot more to it than that (like the relaxed securities regulatory environment under Bush that led to the collapse of the housing market, etc., etc., etc.

 However, this format doesn't lend itself to in depth discussion.  Quick responses, pithy one-liners, etc., are most effective.  


I don't disagree with you.

notsacredh
notsacredh

It was good. Well, it's the 22nd and the world didn't end yesterday. On to the next apocalypse.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

To date I have yet to see Pelosi shed tears.  Once.

StanHughes
StanHughes

@downteap2 @StanHughes  I guess you Neo-Nazis are confused by the truth

The house passed a bill months ago to extend the tax cuts to all Americans.   This most recent bill did not pass because NO DEM in the house was willing to vote for a tax increase on millionaires. 


notsacredh
notsacredh

I think that goes without saying. They'll buy more guns, sit in their safe rooms eating canned beans and then wonder why it stinks so bad.

notsacredh
notsacredh

We did have an inch of snow here last night and it's 27 degrees. Not exactly the end of the world but I do have to scrape the windows on my car and go down into town to get bread and milk.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@Paul,nnto

Silly Troll Trifecta.  Wow, great world-play.  I need to sharpen my imagination but the Gee-O-Pee has me laughing so much I can't think.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

@Paul,nnto @StanHughes @downteap2 I wouldn't call his insults a strength. The best insults fly over the victim's head, like the Southern phrase "bless his heart", which often IS an insult (but not universal, thus enhancing its effectiveness).

fitty_three
fitty_three

@StanHughes @53_3  

So what if Bernanke said there was no housing bubble.  I was talking about "economists", not just bernanke.

Dubbell...

Robbert5
Robbert5

@StanHughes You guys really need to get the facts straight on the difference between nazism and communism.  Pravda and neo-nazi's really don't belong in the same comment thread.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@StanHughes  

Nope.  I was there.  I was sitting in a cot in Forks when I was listening to the radio.  I'd hear it day after day, too.

People like you were calling for letting the economy collapse.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@StanHughes

That's just tradition.

That's what you called yourselves the first two months of your movement!

StanHughes
StanHughes

@53_3 @StanHughes

Both the right and left should have said no.  We would have had a deep and short lived recession.  Please note GE was one of the hardest hit by the collapse (big Obama supporters).  What this now means is that a company can make risky decisions and if thing go well then they make money, if it goes bad the government bails them out. Even after dodd Frank that is the case.  Companies like GE and GM should have truly gone bankrupt their assets sold to better management

 I remember the economist too.  Bernanke prior to the collapse kept saying how there was no housing bubble.  Please look on youtube for his pronouncements.  If you like to listen to someone who repeats dated 1930s economic theory Bernanke is your man.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@StanHughes @Paul,nnto @downteap2 Your history of posting here is above, or below depending how you read the thread, and you weren't called names several times before you called people Neo-Nazis.

So, civility aside, you clearly have issues.

Enjoy your holiday. 

fitty_three
fitty_three

@StanHughes

Try not to bring idiot talking points to the table, stick with facts, and you wouldn't get treated like that.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@StanHughes

Hmmm.  First of all, the economy back then was days from collapse because the banks would not lend to businesses.  I remember that clearly.  Business owner after business owner lined up plead for government help (in that case, Bush), to loosen up the credit crunch, otherwise they would go under.  

Second, economists then were saying that the economy was days from collapse.

It had to do with no money, dummy.  That's what actually happened. Bush signed TARP I later that year, (2008) and left Obama to manage the second installment of it.

And the only one drinking here is you.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@StanHughes @Paul,nnto @downteap2  Your strengths, such as they are, lay in insults rather than communication, logic, or unserstanding of how politics work.

Also your understanding of Boehner's latest bill is flawed. 

I will say this for you. we have seen your type many times.  First comment out of the gate is calling people Neo-Nazis and miraculously you devolve even from there. 

You are just two claims (being a physician and being a vet) from the silly troll trifecta. 

StanHughes
StanHughes

@53_3  recovery, get off the meth.  we are in a housing crisis because of cheap money from greenspan and you think we are in recovery because cheap money from bernanke .  He is only creating a bigger bubble

Kind of like curing a hangover by drinking more the next morning 

fitty_three
fitty_three

@StanHughes

In the first, the Dems went along, but there was a lot of disagreement (Iraq).  It was a swing and a miss.  At least, the war in Afghanistan netted us OBL.  It was a straighter shot than Cheney's.

And the debt is more the GOP's fault than the Dems.  After all, Clinton balanced the budget.  The GOP?  They ran up 11T in debt and we had to spend 6T more to keep the economy afloat.

StanHughes
StanHughes

@Paul,nnto @StanHughes @downteap2 

You are slow.  If there is an adult nearby please have them help you to understand\

1) A bill was passed by the house months ago and sits in the hands of Harry Reid in the do nothing Senate.

2) No Dem spoke out in support of the most recent bill to tax millionaires and cut defense spending.  Mainly because of threats from Nancy Pelosi, and the lack of any moral backbone by dems in the house

StanHughes
StanHughes

@53_3 @StanHughes   Come off it lets not play party hack. Dems ran to both wars with smiles on their face, and they continued them still, only takes a few days to pull troops out. 


I am sorry, did I say I supported Bush somewhere.  Big government Bush and big government Obama are joined hand in hand.


Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@StanHughes @downteap2 "This most recent bill did not pass because NO DEM in the house was willing to vote for a tax increase on millionaires."

How many votes do you understand it takes to pass a bill through the House. The Speaker didn't bring it to the floor because he couldn't get his caucus. 

To summarize a) it wasn't even offered so there was nothing to pass b) no bill needs even a single vote from a Democrat to get out of the House.

Other than that,  you make an insightful point. 



fitty_three
fitty_three

Oh, and did I mention a recovery in the housing sector in progress?

Definitely NOT a GOP accomplishment!

fitty_three
fitty_three

@StanHughes

Let's see...both stupid wars started by Bush, the Great Recession started during Bush's tenure...

...and the auto companies repay the government and are not now the skeletal remains of our manufacturing sector...

.and, you still support the GOP.

Now THAT is stupid.

And the kids?  I'm sure you were concerned during the Iraq war about Bush's tears for Iraqi kids?

I'll guess not...

StanHughes
StanHughes

@53_3 @StanHughes   I lost???   No I think the so called cliff is a good thing.  Two stupid wars that Obama has faithfully continued (every dead Afghan child brings a smile to Obama), wasteful spending on shovel projects (even Obama laughs about it) and billions spend on bailing out union run GM (Obama's lips are so atatched to union butts it is disgusting).

Taxes need to go up and spending needs to go down.  The cliff is the best thing that could happen.  We should think Obama for pushing us off


fitty_three
fitty_three

@StanHughes

I did.  I told you that Boehner counted only on GOP support.

And of course, you aren't smart enough to recognize just why the Dems won't bite.

Too bad for you.  Not me.  You lost.  We won. Get over it.  Taxes WILL go up for the rich. All we need to do is....

...absliutely nothin'!

StanHughes
StanHughes

@53_3 @StanHughes 

Wow I guess no dems wanted a tax increase on millionaires and a cut in defense spending.  Of course this would have taken some moral courgae something dems are not noted for..

The hypocritical of the Dems has not match.  

fitty_three
fitty_three

@StanHughes

You didn't get Boehner's memo?

He felt that he had more than enough GOPers to pass it without Dem support.

Clobberhead.