While doing government relations work for Canisius College I attended a couple meetings in Washington where John Boehner spoke. I may not have agreed with a whole lot of his politics, but he struck me as a decent and honest person. He is not a flame-thrower. He has worked with Democrats, including particularly the late Senator Ted Kennedy on education reform. Being decent and willing to compromise has now led to his resignation.
There are some major issues that Congress needs to resolve in the next several weeks. Something needs to be done to pass the 2016 federal budget, or at least a reasonable continuing resolution. The federal debt limit needs to be addressed. These are heavy lifts, and trying to get something done will be incredibly difficult given the block of far right-wing members of the House caucus who are out for blood. Add to that Senator Ted Cruz (R, Alberta). Cruz, however, does seem to be leading an awfully small parade in the Senate.
Boehner’s upcoming resignation now frees him, along with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to cobble together a majority that can take care of the budget and the debt limit. Compromising to do those things is good for the country because politics for the sake of politics only benefits politicians.
Boehner’s resignation, of course, will now set off a major free-for-all for the speaker’s position. The far right-wing members of the caucus will not have enough votes to control the selection, but they do have enough votes to make the person eventually selected as speaker pay homage. That will only make the far right even more influential, at least in the short-term. Whoever becomes the next speaker will still have serious problems.
There are no House members running for president but the Republicans who are running will get drawn into the debate about what direction the House leadership should take. Cruz has already jumped in with both feet. Most of those candidates are not very shy about expressing their opinions.
Boehner will be gone in 36 days, so the jockeying and vote-trading in the House will be furious. So will be the spill over on national issues like immigration, foreign affairs, etc.
Boehner’s resignation is an honorable move. His life will get a lot simpler. But a fight for the speakership coming in the midst of an incredibly intense presidential campaign is not exactly what the cooler heads in the Party envisioned when they assessed the results of the 2012 election and tried to point the party on a smoother path to victory in 2016.
The Democratic Party is not without its own problems as it faces 2016 and beyond but a whole lot of those problems relate to unforced errors of the Clinton camp. I am going to write something in the near future about Democratic Party base issues, but it is pretty clear that on public policy matters the differences among the party’s presidential candidates are more about style and intensity than substance.
The Republican Party, as identified in presidential primary polls, is leaning very heavily to the right, but the less conservative elements in the party have not given up – in fact they are still looking to prevail like they have for the last seven presidential cycles. The fight for the speakership will feed into the presidential campaign fight. Buy more popcorn and get ready for the show – it’s going to be a double-feature!