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House Speaker John Boehner walks away from the microphone during a news conference after a House GOP meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Washington.

Boehner's underwhelming triumph

12/12/14 09:00AM

Looking through the coverage this morning of last night's Capitol Hill drama, I came across a headline that read, "Speaker John Boehner Wins Big In Spending Bill Fight." It's apparently a fairly common take on the developments -- John Boehner fought the good fight and came out a winner.
The vote was also a big win for Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). Scalise's whip operation was under heavy pressure on this vote, and he was able to keep members in line despite a long delay in the final vote.
At a certain level, that makes sense, right? Purely on a surface level, Boehner was determined to avoid a shutdown, he came up with a legislative game plan, and the package he endorsed ended up passing. The Speaker hasn't had many successes since getting the gavel four years ago, so maybe this counts a triumph for the Ohio Republican.
Or maybe not.
If we consider recent developments solely on the basis of wins and losses -- it's a binary model in which a bill either passes or it doesn't -- then the Speaker and his backers have reason to be pleased. But let's not pretend that Boehner actually led effectively.
He endorsed the so-called "CRomnibus" spending package and urged his own members to help him pass it. Several dozen of Boehner's ostensible followers -- literally, more than a fourth of the House Republican caucus -- ignored his leadership and did the opposite.
Just 24 hours ago, the Speaker expressed optimism about the bill, only to discover soon after that he didn't have the votes. Boehner struggled to introduce the legislation; he struggled to persuade his allies about the legislation's merits; he struggled with the procedural vote; and with just hours remaining until the shutdown deadline, the Speaker seemed to have absolutely no idea how to get out of the mess he and his party had created.
Were it not for President Obama and White House officials urging House Democrats to grudgingly support the bicameral agreement, it seems pretty obvious that this bill would have failed.
A triumph for John Boehner? Hardly.
The morning sun begins to rise in front of the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)

Shutdown averted following late-night drama

12/12/14 08:00AM

As of 8:30 p.m. (ET) last night, with three-and-a-half hours remaining until a government shutdown, no one seemed to have any idea what the Republican-led House would do -- or if it would even do anything.
But after a furious round of behind-the-scenes lobbying, the so-called "CRomnibus" spending package reached the floor, and as Suzy Khimm and Benjy Sarlin reported, it narrowly passed.
With just hours before government funding was scheduled to expire, the House voted 219-206 to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill, fending off a last-minute revolt from liberal Democrats over provisions to roll back regulations on Wall Street and campaign finance. [...]
The bill now moves to the Senate, which, according to Sen. Harry Reid, will begin consideration of the measure Friday.
The full roll call on last night's vote is online here. Note that 67 House Republican broke ranks and opposed the package negotiated and endorsed by their own chamber's leaders -- that's a little more than a fourth of the caucus -- which would have been enough to kill the legislation were it not for the 57 House Democrats who rebuffed their leaders and backed the bill.
Procedurally, the House also approved a two-day extension of current funding, which was also quickly endorsed by the Senate, which prevented a shutdown and gave the upper chamber a couple of extra days to complete work on the $1.1 trillion spending package.
In terms of what to expect, the Senate is likely to take up the bill today, though opponents -- on the left or right -- could force a delay until the weekend. The package enjoys the support of the leadership in both parties and will probably pass. Note, House members have already left town, so if senators try to change the bill in any way, they'll effectively kill the package.
Though the schedule is still coming together, senators are also going to tackle the Defense spending bill (NDAA), the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), several "tax entenders," and some pending nominations before wrapping up for the year.
As for the larger context, I can appreciate why much of the political world was breathing a sigh of relief last night -- government shutdowns should always be avoided -- but these are not circumstances to celebrate.

Spending fight and other headlines

12/12/14 07:58AM

Spending fight moves to Senate. (Bloomberg)

Supreme Court may take up abortion case. (

ISIS bigwig says group exists thanks to U.S. prison camp. (New York Magazine)

Backers: Romney more open to 2016 run. (Politico)

After California's big rains: mudslides. (

Malala sympathetic to Mexican protester at Nobels. (AP)

Open-carry activist accused of killing husband and stepdaughter. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Dogs in Heaven? Pope leaves pearly gate open. (NY Times)

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Citations for the December 11, 2014 TRMS

12/12/14 01:07AM

Tonight's guests:

  • Noah Bierman, congressional reporter for the Boston Globe
  • Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, (D), CT
  • Ali Soufan, former FBI special agent who took part in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah
  • Congressman Steve Israel, (D), NY
  • Congressman John Sarbanes, (D), MD

Tonight's links after the jump...

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Spending bill battered from both sides

Spending bill battered from both sides

12/12/14 12:10AM

Rachel Maddow reports on how, contrary to the confidence expressed by Speaker Boehner, conservatives attacked the spending bill from the right, and liberals were outraged by last minute additions, including a taxpayer bailout provision for big banks. watch