House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio wipes a tear as he waits to receive the gavel from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 5, 2011.
Charles Dharapak/AP

Is Boehner prepared to ‘wager the House’s reputation’?

President Obama sat down with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and fielded a question about House Speaker John Boehner’s (R) bizarre upcoming lawsuit challenging the president for using his executive powers. Obama’s response rings true: “The suit is a stunt.”
“You notice that he didn’t specifically say what exactly he was objecting to,” the president added. “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” the president added later…. What I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is, ‘If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?’ You’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority while you’re not doing anything?”
But the Speaker is not without defenders. The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal extended its unintentionally amusing support.
The Beltway press is portraying Mr. Boehner as merely serving carrion to the tea party vultures, and no doubt he hopes in part to sate the political appetites of the backbench. But we doubt he’d wager the House’s reputation, and his own, on a novelty lawsuit that the courts wouldn’t hesitate to toss as frivolous. From what we know of the Speaker’s deliberations, he’s been persuaded on the merits.
Look, if the Speaker were genuinely persuaded on the merits of the litigation, he would have mentioned at least one example of executive overreach to bolster his point. Indeed, if Boehner actually believed his own rhetoric, he wouldn’t have urged Obama to circumvent Congress while holding a press conference complaining about Obama circumventing Congress.
But that’s not the funny part. Rather, what’s amusing is the WSJ editorial board assuming that the upcoming lawsuit must have some merits because Boehner wouldn’t “wager the House’s reputation, and his own” on an election-year p.r. stunt.
The obvious follow-up question is, what reputation would that be?
Simon Maloy’s take mirrored my own.
Who would have guessed that John Boehner and the House of Representatives had reputations to wager? Boehner’s personal approval rating sits at 31 percent. Congress’ approval rating is a muscular 16 percent. There’s not a whole lot either could do to make the public hate them more.
And I’m not entirely sure where the Journal got the idea that Boehner wouldn’t put himself in the positon of looking like an idiot. That’s been the story of the Boehner speakership. The failure of his “Plan B” tax bill on the eve of the fiscal cliff? An embarrassment for Boehner. The collapse of his debt proposal during last autumn’s budget crisis? An embarrassment for Boehner. The defeat of the farm bill last summer? An embarrassment for Boehner. Even his reelection as speaker was a humiliating affair, marked by rebellions and protest votes. House Republicans shut down the government on his watch. The guy is a walking own-goal.
By all appearances, Boehner and his aides will eventually think of some grounds for the lawsuit they’re so eager to file and the partisan plan will be set in motion: fundraising letters will be sent, Fox News segments will be produced, speeches will be delivered, and podiums will be pounded upon. The Republicans’ commitment to their silliest meme – Obama’s an out-of-control tyrant – will have the frivolous lawsuit the far-right demands.
But Boehner’s willingness to “wager” his and the institution’s “reputation” is barely an afterthought. If the Speaker was deeply concerned about such niceties, he wouldn’t have threatened to crash the economy on purpose in debt-ceiling hostage crises; he wouldn’t have shut down the government; he wouldn’t have held several dozen pointless votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act; and he might have tried working on governing at some point over the last three-and-a-half years.
If/when these lawsuits fail, what difference will it have made? Boehner will be right back where he is now: looking like a feckless Speaker with no accomplishments, no agenda, and a new addition to his list of embarrassments.

Barack Obama, House Republicans and John Boehner

Is Boehner prepared to 'wager the House's reputation'?