Reflecting on Tuesday’s House passage of stopgap legislation to keep the government open for three weeks, House Speaker John Boehner suggested that the path to keeping the federal government running over the long term will require a compromise with Democrats — an acknowledgment that won’t sit well with conservatives in his party.
At a Wednesday job creation forum hosted by the Republican leadership, I asked Boehner whether Democrats have a point when they note that he needs their votes to fund the government. His first reaction since the vote revealed his bind, and suggests he’s not throwing in his lot with the Tea Party. “Let me remind you that Republicans control one-half of one-third of our government,” Boehner said. “It’s never been lost on me that because we only control the House there are a lot of other players that we need to work with in order to come to any agreement to keep the government open. But I’m confident that we’ll be able to find a way to cut spending — which we believe will lead to a better environment for business to hire people in America — and keep the government open.”
If Tuesday’s vote had failed, it would in all likelihood have touched off a government shutdown. That’s an outcome Boehner wants to avoid. But to pass the spending resolution, he couldn’t rely on his caucus alone — the 54 defectors in his caucus, who drew a line in the sand in pursuit of much more drastic cuts and far-right policy measures, meant that he needed Democratic votes to get it done.
That’s a no-win situation for him. He’ll have to choose between bending to the will of the right flank of his party, and precipitating a government shutdown, or cutting a deal with the White House and congressional Democrats, and further alienating his base.
It’s an unenviable choice, but based on this statement, the choice is clear.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.