I’ve been trying to figure out what House majority leader John Boehner is up to. He ably negotiated a plan with the President that of course has tax increases—once Obama won reelection, that was baked in the cake—but has trophies for his side too: the chained CPI, a trillion in spending cuts on top of the trillion in cuts they’ve already gotten, the debt ceiling still looming out there somewhere, a tax threshold of $400K instead of $250K.
And yet, instead of leading the nation away from the cliff, he’s leading his caucus over it. He’s pushing his benighted Plan B and will apparently waste tomorrow voting on it. I assume he has the votes to pass it but so what? It’s dead in the Senate and the President has already promised a veto.
The only reason I can see for pursuing that course is that he’s more interested in keeping his job as leader in the new Congress than in resolving the cliff for the good of the nation. When you consider his numbers—something like 60 Tea Partiers and almost no moderates—it seems undeniable that the only way he gets the House to pass a bona fide compromise, like the plan he and the President have hammered out, is with a large majority of Democrats.
And at that point, he’s passed a $1 trillion tax increase with the help of a bunch of D’s and his chances of getting elected as leader in the next Congress are zilch.
In recent days, I’ve stressed the point that Boehner’s ability to deliver his troops is the ultimate question in terms of a cliff deal. I fear he’s about to show that he can, in fact, deliver the votes—for a meaningless alternative. But for the real deal—and I really hope I’m wrong—he’s looking too weak to get the R’s on his side and too scared to avoid the cliff without them.