Today’s ‘Plan B’ vote isn’t about higher taxes – it’s about John Boehner’s survival

House Speaker John Boehner is fighting for more than just taxes today.
House Speaker John Boehner is fighting for more than just taxes today.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Today’s vote on the fiscal cliff isn’t about taxes. It’s not about millionaires. It has nothing to do with who pays how much more and at what level.

It’s about John Boehner.

It’s about whether he can win enough votes to remain speaker. Because if he can’t get enough votes from Republicans who agree with him that, yes, millionaires can afford to pay a bit more on taxes in a dire time—i.e., enough Republicans who don’t think “compromise” is the C-word—then he’s done.

Don’t believe me? Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Why would a speaker be so desperate, days before the fiscal cliff deadline, to pass a bill that absolutely can’t become law?
  • Why is he using “a routine annual extension of import restrictions on Myanmar” as a shell to making pass this bill that much easier?
  • Why did Grover Norquist—who counts himself a Boehner supporter in this Reason TV interview—break his own tax pledge to give Boehner cover on taxes?
  • Why is there suddenly a “Not Boehner” caucus—which started with #FireBoehner and then snowballed into bigger support from the more moneyed Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth?
  • Why did Obama expressly point out in his presser Wednesday that “There is no doubt that, you know, the speaker has challenges in his caucus?”
  • Why did Jay Carney in his presser today say that this vote is “only a matter of internal House Republican politics?”
  • Why did a reporter ask this of Boehner at his news conference today? “The White House says the reason that you are resorting to ‘Plan B” is because you realized you didn’t have as much Republican support as you wanted for your own proposals in fiscal cliff negotiations. Is that true?”
  • Why is the vote count for a bill that is only going to win Republican fans—some Republican fans—still up in the air?
  • Why is the vote at 7:30 p.m.?
  • Why is Boehner himself on the House floor, scrambling for every vote he can get—a practice known as “whipping”; something usually left for members of the speaker’s leadership.
  • Why does this headline say “Boehner scrambles”?

The answer: Because they all point to a man holding on—with the edges of his fingernails—to his job as speaker.

John Boehner is trying not to be Dick Lugar or Charlie Crist.

Today’s fight isn’t about Obama versus recalcitrant Republicans. It’s about the Right versus the Far Right. It’s about the Last Stand of the Neocons—people willing to fall on their swords and take everyone with them—and it’s about a Republican Party at war with itself over whether that’s a good idea or not.

We are watching a man try to hold onto his job.

Today is about all of us making a choice—rooting for a reasonable man to win against our principles or rooting against a reasonable man to vindicate our principles.

Mind you: It doesn’t matter how you choose. Either way, “Plan B” can’t become law.

But that’s kind of the point.

To cop a title from the new Judd Apatow movie, “This is 63.”

Today’s ‘Plan B’ vote isn’t about higher taxes – it’s about John Boehner's survival