Yesterday, after hours of last minute whipping, Speaker John Boehner was forced to pull his debt ceiling vote from the House floor because he couldn’t get enough ultra-conservative members of his caucus to vote for it. This failure on Boehner’s part makes little sense to me.
President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid both said the bill would never become law if it passed the House. Since it wasn’t going to become law, from a political and negotiation perspective, it didn’t much matter what policies were in Boehner’s bill. What did matter most was that Rep. Boehner would be able to pass a bill with his caucus. This would give him something to point to when he tried to make the case that it is the Senate Democrats or President Obama who are responsible for any possible debt ceiling failure.
Given this, I can’t understand why Boehner was unable to get the votes. This purely political dynamic should have been explained to the entire Republican caucus when Boehner took his plan back for redrafting. Since the actual policies are pretty much moot in a bill that won’t become law if some members wanted changes to get their votes Boehner should have just made them.
As far as I can tell, either Boehner did a terrible job of explaining to his caucus why he needed their support on this piece of show legislation or he foolishly and very publicly started writing his own plan without first discovering that there was a large segment of his caucus that would simply refuse to vote for any debt ceiling increase.
Boehner choose to create this piece of legislative theater. He personally hyped the production to make sure everyone was watching. Yet when the curtain went up, he fell flat on his face.
By failing to win a purely kabuki-style vote Speaker Boehner unnecessarily made himself look like a rank amateur.