The likely truth is that John Boehner never had the votes to cut a deal with President Obama. Any deal. Not a grand bargain of deficit reduction. Not a piecemeal deal that might have lessened the blow of all the Bush tax cuts expiring on Jan. 1. Nothing.
If that’s true, as I strongly suspect it is, then, yes, the last six weeks since the election have been a tour de force of kabuki theater. His Plan B was probably, in that scenario, his last ditch effort to escape this fiasco without having to admit that he never had the votes. Now that has failed, too, after a desperate 11th hour attempt to cajole, whip and bludgeon his Republican Members into voting for it.
It is easy to overreact to these things in the moment, to overread them. But Speaker Boehner just put it all on the line. The entire nation was watching, and he was exposed. He knows it. His conference knows it. Anyone left in Washington who had doubts about this speaker’s clout now knows it, too. In a parliamentary system, he would resign and his party would elect a new leader. We don’t do it that way here … usually. But it’s hard to see how Speaker Boehner continues from here — or why he would want to.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.