Following up on an earlier item, it’s not official – House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his members at their weekly conference meeting that he’s prepared to abandon his own plans and try things their way. As such, with a government-shutdown deadline just 12 days away, the House will vote on a spending bill that defunds the Affordable Care Act, just like the far-right demands.
When reporters asked whether he had lost control of his conference, Boehner replied, “The key to any leadership job is to listen.” That’s a generous way of saying he’s being told what to do by those he ostensibly leads.
What’s more, the woefully weak Speaker seemed eager to punt the whole mess to the upper chamber, in the hopes that he won’t take all of the blame for the fiasco he and his caucus created: “[W]e’re going to send it over to the Senate, so our conservative allies over there can continue the fight. That’s where the fight is….. The fight over here has been won. It’s time for the Senate to have that fight.”
And when Boehner said the fight in the House “has been won,” the Speaker is referring to the victory of the extremists he hoped to lead in a more responsible direction, but who blew him off.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, doesn’t have a lot of choices, and can’t force congressional Republicans to be less foolish. It can, however, prepare for the worst.
The White House told federal agencies on Tuesday to prepare for a government shutdown.
President Obama’s budget director Sylvia Matthews Burwell in a memo to agencies said they should set their plans in case Congress fails to pass a funding measure by the end of the month. The government would shut down on Oct. 1 without action by Congress.
While there is time for Congress to act, Burwell wrote that “prudent management” requires agencies to prepare for a shutdown.
It’s tempting to think the White House would be scrambling to figure something out right now, but there’s just not much President Obama and his team can do. They can’t negotiate with Republican leaders because rank-and-file GOP lawmakers aren’t listening to their leaders anyway, and they can’t focus on common ground because Republican demands are too ridiculous.
So what happens now?
The House will almost certainly approve their stopgap spending measure this week, marking the 42nd time House Republicans have voted to gut the Affordable Care Act. The bill will then go to the Senate, which will swiftly reject it, before passing a bill of its own.
The House will then have to decide whether to approve the Senate bill or shut down the government. All of this will have to happen within the next 12 days.
Also keep in mind, the new House Republican strategy not only pushes Washington closer to a shutdown, but also raises the possibility that conservatives are acting against their own interests – if the Senate spending measure is to the left of Boehner’s original plan, the right may have to swallow a bill that’s friendlier to Democrats than the one they could have had just a week ago.
It would have been quite easy to avoid this showdown, if only Boehner were a more effective Speaker and his members weren’t so overwhelmed with madness.