Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, answers questions from reporters during his weekly briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 5, 2013.
Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

With shutdown looming, Boehner finds himself stuck

Funding for the federal government expires in just two weeks, and for now, the leadership in the Republican Congress have no idea how to prevent it. House leaders would love to get some constructive cooperation from their far-right, rank-and-file members, but as we were reminded yesterday, that’s not happening.
A leading conservative lawmaker eager to dethrone House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is ratcheting up the pressure for a shutdown battle over Planned Parenthood that neither Boehner nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) want and are trying desperately to avoid.
 
“I cannot and will not fund a vile, racist organization who specializes in convincing mothers to kill their children and then selling their baby parts to the highest bidder,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) said in a written statement to TPM Tuesday. […] Huelskamp is a signatory to the letter circulated by conservative House lawmakers pledging not to fund Planned Parenthood, even if that means a government shutdown at the end of this month.
To the extent that reality matters, Planned Parenthood is not racist; it does not convince women to commit murder; and it does not sell baby parts.
 
But even putting these pesky facts aside, Huelskamp’s posture is obviously inflexible. It’s not as if Boehner is going to persuade the right-wing Kansan and his allies to keep the government’s lights on and leave this fight for another day.
 
In theory, the House Speaker could see Huelskamp’s rhetoric as proof that the far-right’s position is intractable, which in turn could push Boehner to reach out to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). After all, the Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate are already roughly on the same page, and if Boehner reached an agreement with Pelosi, there’d be more than enough votes to pass a spending measure and avoid a shutdown. A deal would likely come together quite quickly.
 
So why doesn’t the Speaker just do that? Because if he does, Boehner’s members might fire him.
Hard-line conservative Republicans want Boehner to do whatever it takes to shut off funding for [Planned Parenthood], even if it means a shutdown. They’re vowing to vote against any spending bill that allows such funding to continue.
 
The warning to Boehner is obvious: The speaker can either do what they want on Planned Parenthood, or they’ll force a vote to replace him.
The Politico article quoted an unnamed House Republican who’s close to the leadership: “There’s a fuse burning, and things are going to blow up soon. It’s not if it will blow up. The only question is when.”
 
It’s worth remembering that there is no real substantive disagreement among Republicans: they’re united in opposition to Planned Parenthood, which had enjoyed bipartisan backing for decades. The fight is entirely tactical: GOP leaders believe there’s simply no way to win a shutdown fight in a way that advances Republican interests, while far-right lawmakers don’t care and insist on pursuing the strategy anyway.
 
If Boehner follows his members’ orders, a damaging shutdown is inevitable. If the Speaker strikes a deal with Democrats and keeps the government’s lights on, his job is in jeopardy.
 
Tick, tock.
 
 

Government Shutdowns, House Republicans, John Boehner and Tim Huelskamp

With shutdown looming, Boehner finds himself stuck