House Republican efforts to build support among their more conservative members collapsed Thursday as Congress prepares to cut town for a month-long recess without first passing a funding bill to address the thousands of unaccompanied minors being detained at the U.S. border. Confronted with the Republican leadership's inability to shore up enough votes, House Speaker John Boehner pulled the doomed legislation, which would have provided $659 million in emergency aid to the U.S. border.
It's hard to overstate what a humiliating failure this is for the House Republican leadership team, especially House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Congress is still prepared to leave town tonight for a five-week break, but lawmakers will leave having accomplished nothing in response to the humanitarian crisis along the U.S./Mexico border.
There's still a small chance the House GOP will figure something out -- there will reportedly be an emergency meeting within the hour, though it's unclear what good it will do -- but after exhaustive efforts, it appears House Republicans have killed their own party's policy.
It was the first real test for the new House Republican leadership team and they appear to have failed miserably.
In a statement, Boehner blamed President Obama for Republicans' inability to pass their own legislation and urged the president to take unilateral action regardless of Congress. The timing is breathtaking: literally yesterday, GOP lawmakers voted to sue Obama for circumventing Congress, and less than 24 hours later, Boehner is publicly urging Obama to circumvent Congress.
The resulting image is a helpless party, lacking leaders, direction, and purpose. House Republicans were desperate to prove they're capable of being a governing party, and in the process, they've proven the opposite.
To be sure, the GOP border bill was, on a substantive level, pathetic. It would have done very little to address the problem, and its demise is a positive development for the country.
But the real story today is one of epic incompetence and a party that's practically developed an allergy to completing the basic tasks of government.
This is, of course, great news for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who now appears to have more influence over what happens in the House than the actual House Republican leadership team.But in the meantime, John Boehner's Speakership is turning into something of a tragedy. How many times has he put together a bill, only to be betrayed by his own followers? 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.
We'll have more on this later, but for now Boehner has to be asking himself about the value of a leader with no followers. As if we needed additional evidence, he remains the Speaker In Name Only.