During the February budget standoff, I quoted a Capitol Hill veteran noting that House Republican freshman had scuttled a pork barrel project in their leader’s district, which would have been unthinkable in prior eras. At the time I predicted that because Boehner clearly couldn’t control his own troops, we would have no fiscal year budget agreement, leading to a federal government shutdown.
I am not unhappy to say that I was wrong. But after yesterday’s humiliation of Boehner by the Tea Party freshman, I will plead to having been correct a bit too early for events.
John Boehner is an experienced and able politician, and post the Gingrich-led changes in House Rules, he has at his disposal an array of tools to deal out suffering to whippersnapper members. He could put one little twerp on the committee to oversee public sewage, move another one’s office into the men’s room, and assign another to chair a commission on whether the Treasury department could print a gay-friendly three dollar bill.
Yet no one seems scared of him. Maybe the Republican freshman just don’t care, or maybe they sense that Boehner is too scared of them and their supporters to lower the boom. But either way, the breakdown in Congressional Republican discipline is stunning and does not augur well for a resolution to the debt ceiling standoff.
FOOTNOTE: Thoughtful take on this issue here by Norm Ornstein.