So as of a few hours ago we have a solution now to the fiscal cliff. Kind of. Maybe. It seems that the only things they really agreed on were what taxes were going to rise and by how much. The agreement raises $620 billion over the next decade, but substantial spending cuts were left out of the mix- only $15 billion. There are rumblings now though that the House Republicans are going to try to amend the Senate-passed bill to add more spending cuts.
In all of this, what I have found most fascinating is how much John Boehner has really moved from the spotlight to the sideshow.
Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell, two old boys from the old days of the Senate, came together to hash this thing out after talks between Boehner and Obama broke down. Since then, Boehner has been on the sidelines. Now the spotlight is back on him and the House to pass the Senate bill to avert the cliff.
It’s nice that the House Republicans have for now stopped their nitpicking on the exact magnitude of the tax increases. It simply is not realistic to continue beating the Grover Norquist drum. Bottom line is that taxes need to go up. No question either that more spending cuts are also necessary.
But where in all of this has John Boehner contributed anything of substance that carried through to the end? He didn’t do so hot during the debt ceiling fiasco in 2011, and couldn’t muster enough votes this time around, setting the stage for Biden and McConnell stepping in to hammer out an agreement.
Summer 2011 and this ongoing situation have shown that he simply is not a very good negotiator, particularly with the minority group of tea baggers who put ideology ahead of pragmatism. He isn’t acting like a leader of his party. He isn’t controlling the narrative. Granted he isn’t the sole leader of the Republican Party, so the narrative should not completely be his, but he is the Speaker of the House.
So if he can’t even get an agreement from within his party, how can he be depended on to lead the negotiations for grand bargains? I get the feeling that Biden and McConnell, as ideologically different as they are, still have a sense of collegiality with each other. They have stature within their parties, and that gives them stature when working with each other. Boehner is just being pushed around and off to the side, which is disheartening because then it gives the tea baggers more power, pushing the party further into the fringe.