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Friday, May 10, 2013

Boehner’s not the leader of House Republicans, he’s the spokesperson

Talking Points Memo: If you feel like the inmates have taken over the asylum in the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) wants you to know that your suspicions are totally correct.

At his weekly Capitol briefing Thursday, Boehner faced questions about two aging and increasingly questionable elements of the GOP’s legislative strategy: repeated votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and continued efforts to extract partisan concessions from Democrats in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling.

In both cases, Boehner acknowledged that the conservative wing of the House is driving the agenda.

“We’ve got 17 new members that have not had the opportunity to vote on the President’s health care law,” Boehner said, referring to next week’s ACA repeal vote. “Frankly they’ve been asking for an opportunity to vote on it, and we’re going to give it to them.”

And the debt ceiling? Same basic story.

“Our conversations have begun,” he said. “We’re going to have a big conversation with our members next week to talk about a way forward — what do our members believe is necessary to allow them to vote yes on increasing the debt limit?”

It’s yet more evidence that the party’s national and legislative strategies are driven by rank and file conservatives, not party leadership.
Just yesterday I brought up a trend in punditry that held that Pres. Obama was supposedly the problem in Washington, because he isn’t “leading” Republicans. The idea is that Obama needs to grab up the secret White House Magic Wand and make extremist Republicans into reasonable moderates.

Something like that anyway. It’s not really clear on what he’s supposed to do specifically, because they never actually explain it. They just say “leadership” because they’re lazy and dumb and saying Republicans are the problem would just be “media bias” (which has come to be a synonym for “reality” these days).

Anyway, none of these deep thinkers ever accuses John Boehner of not practicing leadership, even though the case is much better in his case. Like Obama, Boehner can’t just wave a magic wand and suddenly get people to do everything he says. But unlike Obama, Boehner rarely even tries to get people to follow him.  Where the President actually proposes legislation, the Speaker mostly reacts. When he holds a press conference, it’s like he gathers the other House Republicans around and asks, “So what do you want me to tell these guys?”

If there’s any lack of leadership in Washington, it’s coming from the Speaker’s office, not the White House.

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