QUESTION: Just a follow up on that: are you still committed to having a vote before you leave? And, given the concerns within your own conference about the costs of this border bill, can you pass something? BOEHNER: Listen, I, I'd like to act. We've got a humanitarian crisis on the border, and that has to be dealt with. But the president clearly isn't going to deal with it on his own, even though he has the authority to deal with it on his own.
The new House Republican leadership team held a brief press conference yesterday following a closed-door caucus meeting, fielding a few questions, all of which related to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border. One exchange between a reporter and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stood out for me.
Wait a second. Hold on. Boehner has spent months shouting, sometimes literally, about President Obama's out-of-control power grabs. As the Speaker and his caucus see it, Obama no longer gives a darn about separation of powers, and he's embraced a tyrannical model in which the president is king. Boehner is so outraged by Obama's willingness to act unilaterally that the Speaker is literally going to take the White House to court.
But when push comes to shove, Boehner's apoplexy is a sham. When the Speaker wants a shift in U.S. policy in Iraq, he demands that Obama deploy troops on his own, whether Congress approves of the administration's policy or not. When Boehner wants a shift in border policy and finds he's incapable of passing a bill, he again suggests the president can do as he pleases, without regard for lawmakers' approval.
If the Speaker of the House believes Obama should take fewer unilateral actions, fine. If Boehner believes the president should take more unilateral actions, that's OK, too. But right now, Congress' top Republican official is making both arguments at the same time, which suggest the Speaker isn't even taking his own rhetoric seriously.
At the same press conference, Boehner told reporters, "Listen, what the president's asking for is a blank check."There's that phrase again. I'm convinced the Speaker keeps using it despite not knowing what it means.
The Ohio Republican then added, "The administration ought to get their act together." In other words, in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, the guy who's done literally nothing except complain wants the guy who's done actual work to get his "act together."
How no one laughs out loud during these Capitol Hill press conferences is a mystery to me.
So where does that leave us, seven days before members leave town for a month-long break? House Republicans now have a bill, complete with pointless gimmicks that make the right feel better. Boehner doesn't have the votes to pass the bill in his own chamber, so he's demanding that the White House tell House Democrats to help support it. Since the West Wing isn't especially impressed with the House GOP plan, which is about a third of the size of the original package presented by the administration, Obama isn't inclined to help the Speaker jam through a bad bill.
Which brings us back to where we expected to be: nowhere. Republicans won't compromise or take the underlying policy issues seriously, and so it now seems very likely that Congress will once again do nothing in the face of a crisis.