11.29.2012 0

Boehner’s dangerous gambit

By Rick Manning — Speaker Boehner has achieved a goal that most politicians can only dream of through the consolidation of his power in the House of Representatives.

He is putting his Committee Chairmen in place and has circled the wagons on his leadership team with the ascension of Cathy McMorris-Rodgers to the number four leadership post – the House Republican Conference Chairman.

It is argued by some that he has even successfully muted the conservative Republican Study Committee through quiet support of a more accommodating chairman, although this point will be tested throughout the months ahead.

Next year’s Congress will have little resemblance to the rough and tumble politics of Boehner’s first year as Speaker.  Not because of the issues, but due to the virtual taming of the tea party contingent that was elected in 2010.

Some lost in 2012, but many have simply exhaled a sigh of resignation and have settled into the life of a backbench member of Congress trying to get little things done while essentially coasting along in acquiescence to the best deal that Republican leadership tells them that they can get.

In losing touch with the big issues of 2010 that drove them to a majority, House Republicans risk wholesale rejection by the fiscally conservative voter base that delivered an historic landslide.

The Speaker putting his ducks in a row and eliminating potential rivals in his own party makes him fully responsible in the eyes of both the Republican base voters, and every House Republican for the outcomes of the upcoming fiscal cliff, debt ceiling and budget battles.

If Mr. Boehner chooses to play little ball, and not fight to win on the big debt issues that plague our nation, he and all of his House Republican colleagues will pay the price at the ballot box in two years.

If Mr. Boehner convinces his House colleagues to jump off the fiscal cliff and accept deals that don’t make significant short and long term cuts in all federal government spending, his colleagues will have to explain their failure to perform the task they were hired to do in 2010, by voters who are out of patience.

If Mr. Boehner fails to use the House of Representatives’ constitutional power to defund all or parts of Obamacare, his Republican colleagues will have to answer to the constituents who elected them in the off-year base election why anyone should come and vote for them in 2014.

The double edged sword that is Speaker Boehner’s apparent victory in leadership elections may be a pyrrhic one if he attempts to use that power to move the political party that claims to be for limited government to an accommodationist stance with Obama just to get along and get things done.

If the Speaker fails to steer a clear limited government course and agrees to higher taxes with an acceptance of ever larger government, within nine months those very House Republican colleagues who hail him today will be scrambling to explain how they voted for Supercommittees, higher taxes and big government in spite of their election promises.

By March of 2014, those colleagues will be publicly disavowing their own leadership and the very votes they have taken in desperate attempts to use masses of K Street lobbyist cash to convince primary voters to give them another chance because this time they really mean it about cutting the size and scope of government.

And if the Republican House majority survives the 2014 mid-term election, Speaker Boehner will not, as his colleagues will have had to run against him to gain re-election.

In Washington, D.C. political memories can be perilously short.  The 2010 election was rightfully viewed by those who were attracted to the tea party movement as the Republican Party’s last chance to get it right.  The same voters who left Republicans high and dry after it was the party of Lincoln which delivered the votes to Democrat Speaker Pelosi to bailout Wall Street were so appalled by the Pelosi-Reid Congress and Obamacare that they gave the GOP one last grasp of the golden ring of power.

Speaker Boehner can either remain faithful to limited government principles and use every tool at his disposal, including not passing a big government funding bill regardless of shut down threats, or he can play the bedraggled negotiator who uses his power to convince his colleagues to abandon their principles in favor of a deal.

This is the power that John Boehner sought.  Let’s hope he is up to making the right choices by holding firm to the limited government principles that Republicans are so fond of repeating on the campaign trail.  If he fails, a limited government party will emerge in America, it just won’t be the one the Speaker leads, and John Boehner’s legacy will be as the man who misled the Republican Party to the point of no return.

It has been said that we should be careful what we wish for, because we just might get it.  Speaker Boehner has spent a lifetime in the trenches of Capitol Hill politics striving for this very moment, now the world will see if he is up to the task.

Rick Manning is the Communications Director of Americans for Limited Government.

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