Even after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) filed the paperwork to seek re-election, the rumors about his possible retirement didn’t stop. Much of D.C. has assumed that Boehner would walk away at the end of this Congress, and after the Republican leader recently bought a Florida condo, speculation picked up about who the next Speaker night be.
But if Boehner’s latest comments to the Cincinnati Enquirer are true, he’s not going anywhere.
He plans to seek re-election as House Speaker and is confident that he will win the position.“I think I’m in better shape with my own caucus than I have ever been in the last three years,” Boehner said.The purchase of a condominium on Florida’s Marco Island “has nothing to do with my future,” he said.
Whether or not Boehner is sincere is anybody’s guess. Maybe the Speaker fully intends to stick around; maybe he’s waiting to show his cards until the last possible moment.
But I continue to believe that if Boehner genuinely expects to hold the Speaker’s gavel for at least another two years, this matters quite a bit to all Americans, not just those in his Ohio district.
Revisiting a piece from December, my Grand Unified Theory of Boehner has long held that the Speaker’s political instincts are fairly sound – he’s perfectly comfortable striking deals, reaching compromises, passing bills, and governing in a traditional way. None of this has happened since he became Speaker, of course, because he leads a radicalized caucus that has no appetite for compromise or legislative successes.
The result leaves Boehner looking weak and inept – he’s pushed around by unyielding extremists who have no use for his brand of “leadership.” But more to the point, because the Speaker doesn’t feel as if he can bring popular bills to the floor, fearing the revolt of his ostensible followers, worthwhile legislation gathers dust while Boehner’s caucus shuts down the government, threatens the occasional sovereign debt crisis, and votes several dozen times to repeal a health care law.
The Speaker puts up with all of this because, well, he wants to be Speaker.
But that’s what makes the prospect of Boehner’s retirement so important. If he decides against re-election, the larger calculus changes – with retirement comes freedom. The Speaker could start focusing on his legacy, bringing popular bills to the floor, and watching them pass.
Indeed, if he were retiring, Boehner would be eager, if not desperate, to bolster his non-existent list of accomplishments. If he’s sticking around, the sense of urgency disappears.
That’s why it’s still important. If Boehner seeks another term, it means he’ll expect to stay on as Speaker, which means he will care about keeping his party happy, which means the odds of meaningful policymaking before the 2014 elections just deteriorated a little more.