No More Mr. Nice Guy

January 2, 2013 5:43 p.m.

According to The Hill, Speaker Boehner has told members of his caucus that he’s done negotiating with President Obama. From the perspective of Boehner and House Republicans this process has amounted to nothing more than Boehner and the members he represents being taken again and again to the cleaners.From the article

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is signaling that at least one thing will change about his leadership during the 113th Congress: he’s telling Republicans he is done with private, one-on-one negotiations with President Obama.

During both 2011 and 2012, the Speaker spent weeks shuttling between the Capitol and the White House for meetings with the president in the hopes of striking a grand bargain on the deficit.

Those efforts ended in failure, leaving Boehner feeling burned by Obama and, at times, isolated within his conference.

In closed-door meetings since leaving the “fiscal cliff” talks two weeks ago, lawmakers and aides say the Speaker has indicated he is abandoning that approach for good and will return fully to the normal legislative process in 2013 — seeking to pass bills through the House that can then be adopted, amended or reconciled by the Senate.

“He is recommitting himself and the House to what we’ve done, which is working through regular order and letting the House work its will,” an aide to the Speaker told The Hill.

It’s a bit hard for me to make sense of just what this means or what Boehner means to accomplish.

On the one hand, this seems quite sensible: moving away from government by crisis to the old method of government by legislation. What gets lost in the drama of the last two years and what poked its head to the surface in the post-cliff Sandy debacle is that the 112th Congress almost completely abandoned actually governing in favor of one long protracted and white hot ideologically primal scream — confrontations over the debt limit, settled by creating the ‘fiscal cliff’, leading the dark comedy of the last 72 hours.

There’s still something very hard to figure to me about just how Eric Cantor managed to end up as the pro-Sandy aid guy and Boehner the anti-. On a host of different levels, the whole thing just doesn’t fit. The best I’ve been able to figure is that Boehner himself and his caucus were just so amped up into a mood of excitement and delirium that they just couldn’t face the Sandy vote and — significantly — simply didn’t grasp what blowback there would be. Again, government by crisis and acting out has become so pervasive that actually government, actual legislation came to seem almost alien.

So yes, going back “fully to the normal legislative process” seems like quite a good idea.

And yet it doesn’t seem quite so easy.

On the contrary, rather then what amounts to endless summitry to try to find ways to strike painful compromises between mutually aggrieved camps that agree on almost nothing, Boehner’s new approach seems to be to pass bills without worrying if they have any chance of getting through the Senate or gaining the president’s signature at all.

Maybe I’m missing something. But it seems like a pernicious sort of denial which would repackage Boehner’s abject weakness as newfound strength.

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