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John Boehner, Speaker In Name Only

John Boehner, Speaker In Name Only
John Boehner, Speaker In Name Only

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his aides spent weeks coming up with a very specific plan to prevent a government shutdown. The idea behind it was to check several boxes that Boehner figured would be good for his party: keep the sequestration cuts that are hurting the country, avoid a shutdown, give the right a symbolic vote on defunding the Affordable Care Act, and live to fight another day.

The Speaker unveiled his plan to his own members yesterday and announced publicly that the House would vote on the plan on Thursday. Oops.

House GOP leaders have delayed a vote on a bill to avert a government shutdown until next week. An aide to Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) confirmed the decision, which is designed to give GOP leaders more time to round up votes.Leaders have been scrambling to gain 217 votes for their plan to fund the government through Dec. 15 while forcing the Senate to vote up or down on a measure to defund ObamaCare.

If it seems like this keeps happening, that's because this keeps happening. For three years, the Speaker has endorsed various bills, urged his own members to follow his lead, scheduled a floor vote, and then pulled the bills when he's turned around to notice that his followers are nowhere to be found.

Remember when Boehner was humiliated when he had to pull his "Plan B" proposal from the floor during the fiscal-cliff fight because Republicans refused to take his advice? Remember when he had to pull the GOP leadership's health care bill in April because his members hated it? Remember when he had to pull a transportation and HUD spending bill for the same reason? Remember when he had to pull a debt-ceiling plan two years ago to avoid further embarrassment to himself?

You might have noticed, this sort of thing didn't happen when Nancy Pelosi ran the chamber. (She knew, among other things, not to announce floor votes before locking down a majority. Why the Ohio Republican hasn't learned this yet is a mystery to me.)

Boehner is ostensibly the most powerful Republican lawmaker in the nation, and holds the gavel of the Speaker of the House, but in practice, Boehner has limited influence over what can and cannot pass the House, and he has no real control over his own caucus. Looking ahead, why should the White House even try to negotiate with a leader who can't lead?