Boehner On Obamacare, Debt Limit Strategies: Take It Up With My Members!

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May 9, 2013 11:06 a.m.

If you feel like the inmates have taken over the asylum in the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) wants you to know that your suspicions are totally correct.

At his weekly Capitol briefing Thursday, Boehner faced questions about two aging and increasingly questionable elements of the GOP’s legislative strategy: repeated votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and continued efforts to extract partisan concessions from Democrats in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling.

In both cases, Boehner acknowledged that the conservative wing of the House is driving the agenda.“We’ve got 17 new members that have not had the opportunity to vote on the President’s health care law,” Boehner said, referring to next week’s ACA repeal vote. “Frankly they’ve been asking for an opportunity to vote on it, and we’re going to give it to them.”

And the debt ceiling? Same basic story.

“Our conversations have begun,” he said. “We’re going to have a big conversation with our members next week to talk about a way forward — what do our members believe is necessary to allow them to vote yes on increasing the debt limit?”

It’s yet more evidence that the party’s national and legislative strategies are driven by rank and file conservatives, not party leadership.

To his credit, Boehner tried to nudge the GOP conference away from an obsession with the Boehner rule — the idea that debt limit increases must be paired with spending cuts of equal measure — and toward naming other party priorities as its ransom.

But ironically that illustrates the fact that the rank and file is driving a strategy that was of questionable usefulness when the GOP adopted it the first time, and lost the rest after President Obama won re-election.

“[D]ealing with the long-term structural spending problem we have frankly is at the core of it. But we also know we can’t cut our way to prosperity,” Boehner said, perhaps unintentionally repeating one of Democrats’ most common budget talking points. “We need real economic growth. And that’s why you continue to hear a lot of discussion about tax reform, regulatory reform, that would help us produce economic growth here in our country.”

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