Boehner Acts Like Adult, Tells Caucus He Won’t Let Default Happen

John Boehner Acts Like Adult, Tells Caucus He Won't Let Default Happen

Boehner Acts Like Adult, Tells Caucus He Won’t Let Default Happen
Image Credit: gage Skidmore via


Is Speaker of the House John Boehner showing signs of becoming an adult?

On Wednesday, he held a private meeting with House Republicans and one of them told the New York Times — anonymously, of course — that the Speaker said he would not allow the federal government to default on its financial obligations. Boehner even insisted he would break the Hastert rule in order to bring the issue to a vote.

What is the Hastert rule? It’s a completely arbitrary, unwritten rule, imposed by former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, that says the Speaker will bring no bill to the floor for a vote that does not have the support of a majority of his own party. The ‘rule’ has been violated 22 times in the last 36 years, several times by Boehner himself. So if he’s looking for credit for growing some balls in the face of Republican opposition, he’s going to have to look a little further than that.

While other Republican representatives confirmed that Boehner is determined not to let the country default when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling, the Speaker’s spokesman, Michael Steel, tried to put his own spin on the news. Steel first told the New York Times:

The speaker always, always prefers to pass legislation with a strong Republican majority.

And then sandwiched in:

The speaker has always been clear that a default would be disastrous for our economy.

Before adding:

He’s also been clear that a ‘clean’ debt hike cannot pass the House.

Well, of course a ‘clean’ debt hike bill can pass the House, as can a clean continuing resolution to fund the government. That’s exactly why Boehner has refused to let either be voted on by the whole House of Representatives, because each would pass with overwhelming Democratic support and the backing of a few responsible Republicans. The kindergarden wing of the GOP, otherwise known as the Tea Party, would then throw a tantrum.

There are a few in the GOP who are ready to do the right thing. Representative Michael G. Fitzpatrick, R-PA, previously joined 21 other Republicans to pass legislation, in cooperation with Democrats, that approved relief for Hurricane Sandy’s victims and that passed the Violence Against Women Act. Of the current impasses, he said:

Hurricane Sandy, the fiscal cliff, all of the big votes require reasonable Republicans and Democrats to come together in order to pass it and get it to the president’s desk. This will be no different … I’ve been there in the past, and I’m prepared to be there again.

Why The Hesitation, Boehner?

So why has Boehner hesitated to make a move to resolve this Tea Party-created crisis? The answer is simple: if he brings either measure to the floor, the Tea Party will revolt and attempt to overthrow him by electing someone else as Speaker. It’s hard to see how they can succeed at bringing along the rest of the GOP, but it’s also hard to see how Boehner, at this point, can avoid a rebellion in the ranks of his party no matter what he does. He has been so incompetent at managing unfolding events that he no doubt should be thrown out on his ear.

The severity of the impending crisis was just emphasized by a Treasury Department report, released on Thursday. It bluntly states just how long and how extreme the effects of a default by the federal government are likely to be:

Not only might the economic consequences of default be profound, those consequences, including high interest rates, reduced investment, higher debt payments, and slow economic growth, could last for more than a generation …

In the event that a debt limit impasse were to lead to a default, it could have a catastrophic effect on not just financial markets but also on job creation, consumer spending and economic growth — with many private-sector analysts believing that it would lead to events of the magnitude of late 2008 or worse, and the result then was a recession more severe than any seen since the Great Depression.

Maybe even John Boehner can see that the slim chance of holding onto his job isn’t worth all that.