The often weepy House Speaker John Boehner’s own weak-kneed leadership consigned his speakership to a forgettable and lamentable chapter of American politics.
When Boehner passes on the gavel at the end of October, he will cap a legacy marred by ineffectiveness and feebleness.
In 2010, the American people delivered the House to Republicans — and, as a result, the gavel to Boehner — demanding action to stop an out of control, radical president and a liberal, Democratic Congress.
Four years later, an exasperated nation tore down the Democrat majority in the Senate, putting trust in GOP leaders to fight to stop the rampant leftward transformation of the country.
Instead, Boehner continued to deliver equivocation and spinelessness on conservative priorities, substituting it with misplaced resolve to force through the shared designs of special interests and President Barack Obama.
The Executive Amnesty Surrender
Republican victories in 2014 brought new speculation GOP leaders would finally begin to show some muscle in standing up to the president.
That speculation was abruptly halted by a chaotic effort to stop Obama’s unlawful executive amnesty in the early days of the 114th Congress.
“The House has acted,” Boehner blustered after a meaningless charade of resistance before locking arms with Senate Majority Leader to pass a so-called “clean” Department of Homeland Security funding bill, allowing the president’s amnesty to continue unhampered.
“I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” Boehner said after the incident.
Seventy percent of Republicans in his caucus voted against the capitulation, and Boehner’s weakness in the new Congress was cemented.
Medicare Reform — Doc Fix
“We made the first real entitlement reform in nearly two decades,” Boehner said Friday during his resignation news conference. The “Doc Fix” failure stands out from the others in that Boehner is fiercely proud of it.
“Conservatives should be happy we got this done,” the speaker wrote in a March 26 op-ed. “Republicans will continue fighting to curb Washington’s worst habits for the sake of our children’s future.”
Yet despite Boehner’s yearning, conservatives were not happy with the massive new spending that came with his April deal to end cuts to Medicare payments to doctors. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the measure would add $141 billion to the federal debt over the course of the next decade.
“This is why the American people don’t trust Congress,” Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said in an April 13 statement on the Boehner pet project.
“Not only are we continuing to allow the debt to explode, but we aren’t really being honest with our constituents about it,” Sessions said, alluding to gimmicks used by GOP leaders to make the package appear revenue-neutral on paper.
2013 Shutdown — Halting Obamacare
There is no moment in the history of Boehner’s tenure as speaker seemingly as senseless as the 2013 government shutdown.
Boehner originally feigned an intention to stick to his guns, allowing the House to pass funding resolutions that stripped cash away from the full implementation of Obamacare. The Democratic-controlled Senate naturally did not cooperate, and the government was shut down on October 1, 2013.
After merely 15 days, Boehner, spooked by unflattering coverage of the showdown, joined with Democrats and ramrodded through Congress a resolution to fully implement the Affordable Care Act.
In an above-and-beyond effort to shirk from battle, Boehner negotiated an element of the package to push-off a debt ceiling battle until February 2014, with no Democrat concessions on federal spending.
‘The Grand Bargain’
Boehner attempted, in secret meetings, to negotiate a historic deal with Obama in the spring of 2012. Boehner, hopeful for a major legacy item, brought the most radically liberal president in American history to the table to try to work out a “Grand Bargain” on tax and entitlement reform.
Boehner was willing to allow for dramatic increases in taxes on the American people. A March 2012 New York Times analysis of the deal and developments around the negotiations suggested Boehner was willing to cede as much as $800 billion in new taxes to be heaped onto struggling American families.
How the speaker ever anticipated being able to sell his caucus, most of whom had signed the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge against any votes that raise taxes, is truly a mystery. But in the end, Democrats, unhappy with Obama’s offer to trim entitlement programs, sabotaged the “Grand Bargain,” and Boehner was denied his attempt to make history by selling out on tax increases.
A lucky failure for all.
Defunding Planned Parenthood
By all accounts, Speaker Boehner is deeply devout Catholic man. In the news conference Friday where Boehner first discussed his impending resignation, the speaker even indicated the presence of Pope Francis in Congress helped propel his decision to resign.
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The failure to move the needle meaningfully throughout his tenure to protect human life by defunding Planned Parenthood stands out starkly in the context of that deeply held faith. It is also possible one of Boehner’s last action at the helm of the House will be to join with Democrats to pass a budget resolution to bypass a Republican effort to finally stop the subsidization of this abortion assembly line — so great is the fear of GOP leaders of a government shutdown.