Speaker John Boehner said that he's got a "few knuckleheads" to deal with, and that's largely why the Republican majority in the House looks good on paper but doesn't always pan out with votes. "On any given day, 16 of my members decide they're going to go this way, and all of the sudden, I have nothing," he said, describing the reality of his "paper majority" in the House, The Hill reported. "You might notice I have a few knuckleheads in my conference."
Once in a while, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sounds like a man who isn't entirely fond of his ostensible followers.
According to the report in the conservative Washington Times, Boehner went on say, "Dealing with Democrats is one thing. Dealing with the knuckleheads is another."
Whether he finds one easier to deal with than the other was unclear.
These comments come just five months after the Ohio Republican publicly mocked his own members over their reluctance to work on immigration reform.
"Here's the attitude: 'Oh, don't make me do this. Oh, this is too hard," Boehner said, in a tone deriding House Republicans as if they were sniveling children. He added, "We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems, and it's remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don't want to."
Remember, this was the Republican Speaker referring to Republican House members. Now Boehner is also willing to concede an unknown number of his members are "knuckleheads," too.
The candor is certainly welcome, though the larger point is how understandable the Speaker's dissatisfaction is.
As we were reminded in late July, when House Republicans killed Boehner's border bill, the Speaker has surprisingly limited influence over what his members actually support.
A Democratic source on Capitol Hill recently sent around a brutal collection of bills Boehner asked his members to support, only to see his own House GOP conference reject his appeals: a grand bargain, a debt-ceiling bill in 2011, a payroll tax extension, a transportation bill, a farm bill, one fiscal-cliff bill, another fiscal-cliff bill, another farm bill, and then yesterday. I think my source might have even missed a couple, including the collapse of Boehner’s debt-ceiling bill in February 2014.
What's more, think about how regularly Boehner is pushed around. He didn't want to initiate a debt-ceiling crisis, but his members didn't give him much of a choice. The Speaker didn't want to hold several dozen ACA repeal votes, but his members called the shots on this, too.
Four years after taking hold of the Speaker's gavel, Boehner has no legislative accomplishments and has developed a reputation as the weakest Speaker in modern times.
The surprise isn't that Boehner calls his members "knuckleheads"; the surprise is that he doesn't use stronger language in public.