John Boehner, Hardest Working Man in Derp Business

From TPM Reader LF

To Brian Beutler’s point, he is probably right that Boehner is doing the smart thing in trying to get a deal now. Let’s face it–Boehner has the hardest job in Washington. Being the Speaker in opposition to a newly re-elected President just sucks. A President is more popular than Congress no matter what, and with far more abilty to control the media narrative. Add to it that Boehner’s diminished majority, and the strength of some dead-enders, a caucus more conservative than one that he has been part of in the past, makes it even harder, and a Floor Leader that is more than happy to shiv him in the back as soon as the opportunity presents itself, makes it harder. And as Speaker, he does have to make things work in some basic fashion.

The crowd encouraging the fall-back, of course, does not have this problem. Mitch McConnell has the easiest job in Washington. A Senate Minority Leader in opposition does not have to accomplish anything at all, but the Senate rules allow him to gum things up without leaving any real fingerprints. Add to the fact that his biggest conservative foil is leaving the Senate to run a think-tank, he is happy to fire from the cheap seats.

But while the President has the clear leverage on the Fiscal Cliff, he still has it–and perhaps more–on the debt limit. That situation did not end well for Republicans in 2011–Congressional ratings dipped to margin of error levels–and they were not able to successfully pin the problem on Obama–who of course was just re-elected. And even if the politics were bad for Obama, it matters far less. Republicans in Congress have to go out and win elections in 2 years, while Barack Obama will never appear on a ballot again. Worse still, a default will hurt bondholders and rattle the markets. These just are not the core Democratic constituencies or the folks funding Democratic campaigns. Even if the trading class were OK with one hostage situation, the threat of repeated spooking of the markets will drive them crazy, and the pressure will make it untenable within a few days. We saw it when the House Republicans blocked the TARP in September 2008, the bottom fell out of the market the next day, and Wall Street (and surely some Senate Republicans) made them pass it after all–with nothing but cosmetic changes.

The President knows all this. He’s holding all the cards. And Boehner might know it too–but he’s better off trying now than trying in a weaker spot in the future.