The Mayans were right...
...Only when they said "end of the world" they apparently meant "end of the Republican party." Last night's "Plan B" failure seems to have been a debacle for John ("Party of One") Boehner, who had been strengthened by Obama's reelection, which provided the Speaker with a rational and sensible interlocutor and a (somewhat) chastened party.Unfortunately his party -- if that's what you can call today's GOP -- apparently hasn't learned its lessons. Whatever one thinks of Republicans, it is bad news for the country when there is no coherent counterpart to negotiate with. Can anyone do any better? Boehner's obits are already popping up:Ezra Klein:
A significant number of Boehners members clearly dont trust his strategic instincts, they dont feel personally bound to support him, they clearly disagree with his belief that tax rates must rise as part of a deal, and they, along with many other Republicans, must be humiliated after the shenanigans on the House floor this evening. Worse, they know that Boehner knows hell need Democratic support to get a budget deal done. That means a cave, at least from the perspective of the conservative bloc, is certain. That, too, will make a change of leadership appealing.
The WaPo's Chris Cillizza:
The Republican party is in a bad place. Boehner is, ostensibly, the leader of the GOP right now since he is the Republican foil to the President. When that leader cant rally a majority of votes in a chamber his party controls for a proposal he has made clear is personally and politically important to him, it suggests one thing: no one is at the controls. Its also the latest indicator that the party is deeply divided between establishment types like Boehner who are trying to find the best deal possible and the base of the party who isnt interested in making those sorts of compromises.
Even Jennifer Rubin is aghast, in her inimitable way:
This is a party acting like a minority party, or worse, like petulant teenagers...the fault lieswith the spineless members who think theyll escape blame if they dont vote for any measure. That is folly, not to mention political cowardice. To govern is to choose, and they apparently can do neither.
Jonathan Bernstein, however, tries to see the glass as half full:
More generally, what comes next depends on what the House leadership learned from this debacle. It could be that they have some 125 or so members perfectly willing to vote for a major deal; if so, the deal that Obama and Boehner were reportedly close to earlier this week could wind up returning even before January 1. Or it could be that what liberals have been saying all along turned out to be true: A plan with an identical result will count to the people who matter in the GOP as a dreaded tax increase if its done now, but suddenly it will count as a tax cut if its done after Jan. 1, when the current tax rates expire. If thats the case, were going over the cliff, but a deal could be reached and pass in early January. Or, finally, it could be that what Republicans really want is to never take a vote to confirm the next tax rates, and would rather (as was suggested a while ago) just allow the Senate bill (which would raise rates only for households making over $250,000) to pass if necessary by voting present and letting Democrats supply the votes.
The GOP has been devoted to an oppositional strategy for so long it makes it hard to pivot and actually govern. Because of gerrymandering in the House and the historical pattern of the president's party losing seats in the midterms it seems unlikely Republicans will lose control of the House in 2014 -- though they're doing their best to upend tradition. The danger is that we have nearly two years and various existential fiscal challenges between now and then that will require some sort of cooperation and compromise.