John Boehner's Gonna Get Tough This Time. For Real.

The Atlantic Wire
John Boehner's Gonna Get Tough This Time. For Real.
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John Boehner's Gonna Get Tough This Time. For Real.

House Speaker John Boehner has been attacked for being a little too chill in recent months, with Politico saying he looks "weak" and limited by "shrinking power," The Daily Beast's Peter Beinert saying Boehner's job is "virtually impossible," the obviously-not-objective Nancy Pelosi calling him "the weakest speaker in history." Slate's John Dickerson defend Boehner by saying he's just "leading from behind." But Boehner is going to shake off that wimpy reputation this fall. He "plans to assume a more aggressive posture" this fall, when President Obama and Congress negotiate over the debt ceiling and the budget, National Journal's Chris Frates reports. How his new aggressive strategy is much different from past ones is not yet clear.

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"GOP lawmakers and aides say Boehner plans to assume a more aggressive posture in the upcoming fights to fund the government and raise the debt limit than he’s displayed so far on immigration," Frates repots. "Deadlines, politics, and the enormous consequences of inaction all make the stakes much higher in the coming fiscal battles." Of course, Boehner faced that combination – deadlines, politics, and consequences of inaction — during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, during the fiscal cliff in December 2012, when his fiscal cliff Plan B failed, and when the sequester's consequences turned out not to be scary enough to convince Congress not to let the deadline pass in March 2013.

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Will Boehner be able to make House Republicans do what he wants this fall? So far, it's not looking great. There's a split between Republicans who want to shut down the government unless Obama agrees to defund Obamacare and Republicans who think that's crazy. A dozen Republican senators have signed Sen. Mike Lee's pledge to "not support any continuing resolution or appropriations legislation that funds further implementation or enforcement of Obamacare." On the other side, you've got Sen. Richard Burr, who told Public Radio International on Wednesday, "That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of... As long as Barack Obama is president, the Affordable Care Act is going to be the law." Sen Tom Coburn told Politico, "My feeling is if you want to make sure that the Democrats take control of the House, run that strategy."

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There is no chance Obamacare will actually be defunded, The Washington Examiner's Byron York reports. Senate Republicans would need 67 votes to override a presidential veto — that means 21 Democrats. But the goal is to win by losing, a Republican Senate aide tells York. "We have to try," the aide says. "Having this fight will show the people who sent us here that we are a party of principle. And after we lose this fight, all of our guys are going to have an issue that we can run on and win."

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In a Wednesday House GOP leadership meeting, Politico's Manu Raju and Jake Sherman report, participants discussed passing a bill to fund the government for two months, because they'll have just nine days to come to a budget agreement when they come back from recess in September. "But Republican leaders are growing concerned by the fervor with which some members are demanding that Boehner defund the health care law as part of the government funding talks," they write. In the House, Rep. Mark Meadows is circulating a similar letter to the one in the Senate calling for a shutdown unless Obamacare is defunded. It has more than 60 signatures. Boehner hasn't said whether he'd try to use the government funding bill to defund the law.

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