Boehner explains ‘the battle of cliffs’


When it comes to American politics, I imagine most of the country, regardless of party or ideology, is completely sick of the series of manufactured crises.

Since Republicans took control of the House two years ago, we’ve seen a string of self-imposed standoffs unlike anything the country has ever seen: a threatened government shutdown, followed by a first-ever debt-ceiling crisis, followed by another threatened government shutdown, followed by another threatened government shutdown, followed by a “fiscal cliff,” followed by “the sequester,” followed by another threatened government shutdown, followed by another debt-ceiling crisis.

It’s not just exhausting, it’s a damaging way for a modern superpower to try to function in the 21st century. And yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to explain who’s to blame.

“Because of the president’s reluctance to cut spending, we’ve been caught in this battle of having cliffs and having these deadlines. This is no way to run a government. But until the president gets serious about the serious structural spending problem that we have, we’re going to have to deal with it. I suggested to the president the other day, the best thing we can do is find some way to get the Senate to finally do their work, have a large agreement that begins to address the spending problem, puts us on a path to balance the budget over the next 10 years, and get out of this cliff business. It’s not good for the country for us to continue to go through this.”

Even by Boehner standards, this one’s a doozy.

As the Speaker sees it, this never-ending series of crises that he and his party have created – on purpose – is necessarily a bad thing. But, Boehner argues, he and his party have no choice but to deliberately impose these punishments on the country “because of the president’s reluctance to cut spending.”

There are, of course, two glaring problems here. The first is that President Obama has already cut spending by about $1.5 trillion, which is a heck of a lot more than Republican policymakers cut during the Bush/Cheney era when folks like Boehner simply put new expenses on the national charge card. Obama has also offered hundreds of billions of dollars in additional cuts, as part of a bipartisan compromise, which the GOP refuses to consider.

The second is that disagreements over spending are not much of an excuse – Boehner’s argument, in effect is, “We’ll stop hurting Americans the moment the president gives us what we want.” The fact that the House Speaker doesn’t see the flaws in saying this out loud is disconcerting.

What’s more, Boehner wants “the Senate to finally do their work,” which is to say, Boehner’s House is still not willing to do any work at all. As the Speaker probably knows by now – he can struggle at times with substantive details, but I’m sure someone has probably explained this to him – most of the Senate already supports a compromise fiscal plan. It would be finished were it not for a Republican filibuster, which prevents passage.

So here’s the question for the Speaker: are you prepared to condemn Senate Republican obstructionism, which is preventing the Senate from “finally” doing its work?

John Boehner

Boehner explains 'the battle of cliffs'