John Boehner needs saving. Or at least needs the chance to save himself. That’s the message from some Senate Republicans as the House takes back the ball in the ongoing negotiations over re-opening the government and raising the debt ceiling.
Rather than be stuck with a bipartisan Senate plan and a clock ticking toward a Thursday debt ceiling breach, Senate GOPers said after a Tuesday caucus meeting, Boehner needs a chance to come up with a deal that will be acceptable to House conservatives. Nothing less than his speakership is at stake.
“The best thing for the country is for John Boehner to deliver,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters. “He would establish himself as the leader of the House, which is good for the country.”
And if Boehner can’t find the votes for a plan in his caucus, which seemed to be the case with his original proposal Tuesday morning?
“If they don’t, that will be a big disappointment. That means that the Senate will have to go,” Graham said. “That means that what we get out of the Senate is going to be less palatable, less good government, and it probably will pass mostly with Democratic votes, which I think puts Speaker Boehner in a compromised situation.”
“And of all of the damage to be done politically here, one of the greatest concerns I have is that somehow John Boehner gets compromised. He’s a good man. I was involved in taking one speaker down. I’d like to be involved in keeping this speaker because quite frankly I think he deserves it.”
Over the last few days, the focus has been on the Senate and ongoing negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). But Tuesday, House Republican leaders reasserted their possession of the proverbial hot potato by proposing a plan to their members that would significantly alter the reported outline of what the Senate was discussing.
That plan didn’t have the conservative support to pass, though, and now House GOP leadership appears to be scrambling to put together a package that would be amendable to their members.
Some Senate Republicans seemed content to let them do it, for Boehner’s sake.
“Obviously, I think it’s helpful to the speaker and his team to be able to do something there and send it over here,” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told reporters Tuesday. “If they can find 218, and we hope they can, we want to give them the opportunity to do that.”
One piece of the ongoing drama in Congress has been Boehner’s control of his caucus (or lack thereof). There is a broad perception, after Boehner came unexpectedly close to losing his speakership in January, that he could face a coup if he doesn’t stick to a plan that the right-wing of his party likes.
Some conservatives House members have suggested as much. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) issued the following statement on Oct. 11, when reports of negotiations between the White House and House Republican leadership indicated that the Affordable Care Act would largely be spared in any deal.
“If true, such an abandonment of conservative principles would dispirit, dismay, and anger the entire conservative base of the Republican party,” he said, “and for any of my colleagues pushing such a deal, it would seriously jeopardize their future chances of becoming elected leadership in the House. Now is the time to stand firm — not capitulate to the Left.”
That helps explain why Senate Republicans want to give Boehner space to corral his conference.
“We want to work with the House, encourage the House to advance a bill,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) told reporters Tuesday. Added Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK): “I think it’s a good thing for the House to say: ‘Look, we want to be involved in this, too.”