Boehner's Move: The House Leader Must Choose between Obstructing or Governing

The Christian Century, January 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

Boehner's Move: The House Leader Must Choose between Obstructing or Governing


Policy makers in Washington have long dreamed of a fiscal grand bargain on taxes and spending. The end of the year instead saw a rather humble bargain: a small-bore budget deal that avoids the big issues and does little to get the economy back on track.

But the budget-deal process did produce one grand outcome: GOP House Speaker John Boehner finally stood up to the insurgent right. Boehner called his hard-line colleagues out publicly, and he delivered the votes for a bipartisan bill.

Boehner has always been more interested in governing than in lobbing ideological bombs. The question has been how much control he has over the avid bomb-lobbers in his own caucus--and how willing he is to take them on. Is this feistier Boehner the new normal? If so, the chamber he presides over may actually pass some meaningful legislation in 2014. Here are some issues to watch:

* Unemployment insurance. On December 28, 1.3 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits. The budget deal did nothing to alleviate this, and Senate Democrats plan to start with this issue in 2014. Boehner says he wants spending cuts in exchange for more unemployment benefits.

* The debt ceiling. The federal government will reach its borrowing limit again in the spring. If Boehner is newly serious about governing, he'll avoid another episode of the pointless debt-ceiling brinksmanship that has defined the last couple years of American politics.

* The farm bill. …

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