Last night was hardly the first public humiliation that John Boehner has suffered at the hands of his fellow Republicans, but it’s probably the most stark. And it raises some very basic questions about the House speaker’s political future – like whether he even has one.
That Boehner had devised and pursued Plan B in the first place seemed to speak to his weak grip on the GOP conference. Boehner and President Obama had negotiated their way to within spitting distance of each other, with the president giving significant ground on his revenue demands, agreeing to a reduction in Social Security benefits, and giving up on a payroll tax holiday extension. But when word of the looming deal leaked, House Republicans let their displeasure be known, and the speaker announced that he’d instead hold a vote on a bill to extent the Bush tax rates for all income under $1 million. That was Plan B.
Exactly where Plan B fit into Boehner’s overall strategy was a matter of some debate, but he pressed hard for it and confidently predicted he had the 218 votes needed to pass it. So now we know that not only does Boehner not have sufficient support among Republicans to pass a potential compromise with Obama, he also doesn’t have the support to pass his own plan.
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