Ending on a Blessed Note: John Boehner

BY: SHAAN FYE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

The six year tenure of John Boehner will draw to a close October 30. After overseeing several victories for Republicans, one of which (2010) propelled Boehner himself to Speaker of the House, Boehner decided to hand in the position just a day after bringing the Pope to Congress. In a press conference last Friday, Boehner said, “Last night I started thinking about this and this morning I woke up and I said my prayers — as I always do — and I decided today’s the day I’m going to do this. As simple as that.” But what really propelled the House Speaker to relinquish his power, a decision only made twice before? It seems to be a combination of a few brewing issues.

Last Year’s Insurrection

Following then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss in 2014, Boehner found his position in jeopardy. The more radical elements of the GOP were assuming more power with an increasingly vocal and angry electorate. In the process of trying to fund the government with the “Cromnibus” bill last December, Boehner ran up against his own party. He pushed the bill through, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown. Certain provisions that lessened financial restrictions on donations and eased certain parts of Dodd Frank aligned the more liberal Democrats of the House with 16 conservative defectors. This paved the way for the January speaker vote, in which 25 Republicans voted against John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

Planned Parenthood

The fracturing of the GOP has placed Boehner at odds with Tea-Partiers who feel they have no room to compromise on Obamacare, gay marriage, the Iran deal, and the budget. While this tension has escalated throughout the year, the issue of Planned Parenthood is certainly what pushed Boehner over the edge.

An anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, filmed a series of videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue. Of course, this isn’t true. What the heavily edited videos actually showed was a Planned Parenthood director explaining the costs of shipping donated tissue to what she presumed was a biomedical research company. Inaccuracies have proliferated through the right-wing media and the GOP presidential candidates, even though the whole premise of selling fetuses is just false. In the unedited video, Nucatola, the PP representative, says, “Our goal, like I said, is to give patients the option without impacting our bottom line. The messaging is this should not be seen as a new revenue stream, because that’s not what it is.”

The traction this video received, unfortunately, has pushed Republicans in the direction of defunding Planned Parenthood. While defunding the non-profit would ultimately cost taxpayers an additional 130 million dollars over the next 10 years, a not-so-conservative result, House Republicans have already voted to suspend funding for a year. While the push in the Senate is expected to fail this week, the issue of shutting down the government over this matter is actually being considered. This is what pushed John Boehner over the edge. A video with a false conclusion has the power to shut down the entire government.

In a Sunday interview, John Boehner explains the split in his own party, saying, “The Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there, you know, spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean this whole notion that we’re going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013 — this plan never had a chance.” When Boehner points to his biggest regret – not cutting a “grand bargain” with Obama to address government spending and the debt ceiling long term – it is further proof that Boehner’s compromising style has lost out to the more enraged hardliners like Ted Cruz, who recently screamed to supporters in Washington, “Yesterday John Boehner was Speaker of the House. Y’all come to town and somehow that changes. My only request is can you come more often!”

Impacts on the GOP Primaries

The anti-establishment trend will only intensify with a perceived victory in Boehner’s resignation. With Cantor and now Boehner gone, the constituents that have pushed Carson, Fiorina, and Trump to the top of the polls will demand more from their tea-party politicians. This seismic fracture in GOP politics spells trouble for Jeb Bush and other establishment Republicans that represent a softer, more pragmatic conservatism. Boehner’s resignation was a victory for the people that buy into the no-compromise politics of people like Ted Cruz, but it may not be a victory for the Republican party’s future. At least Boehner, a devoted Catholic, fulfilled one of the biggest goals of his tenure, bringing the Pope to Congress. There is nothing like going out on a good note.

Comments? Concerns? Recommendations? Leave a comment below.

 

  • Ian Holland

    Definitely interesting to consider the circumstances behind Mr. Boehners seemingly expeditious departure from the Speaker position. I only wish you would’ve written more on the future impacts of his decision and how it will affect the future of the GOP. Enjoyed reading your viewpoint though.

  • Sean D. Burnham

    I believe John Boehner to be a good man . . . just not the right man for the position for which he held. His record of capitulation was such that he was impotent when it came to posturing. All he ever did was posture . . and capitulate. He was neither steadfast nor resolute. Sure compromise is requirement of the position but compromise through negotiation typically lends concessions and accommodations on both sides. In the end, the accord, the settlement, should be palatable and agreeable to both parties. Such was seldom if ever the case under his leadership. Business relationships and politics share similar dynamics to a couple’s relationship; the one who cares least owns the relationship. Boehner held the political leverage but not the fortitude to exercise this leverage. He cared too much. He cared about the image of the party and how the party would be treated in the media and how the party would be perceived by the electorate. The Democrats continue to legislate from a position of strength which never compromises even though they hold a minority in both houses. Thus Boehner was actually responsible for a culture of Conservative Republican weakness, one which would rather claim opposition rather than to actively contest and pose a true and resolute position. He became ineffectual and was not seen as a real threat by political adversaries. He was about as effective as have no Speaker at all, yet maintaining House majority. It was an empty position. Sure our current Congress is the most productive in history since the departure of Harry Reid and the ascension of Mitch McConnell, but that has less to do with Boehner’s leadership than it does the removal of Reid’s obstructionist practices. Thomas Jefferson was wise in his assertion that “A little rebellion now and then Is a good thing.” So it is.