Not an hour after those words were uttered, Boehner’s House Republicans dealt him the latest in a series of humiliations. Sixty-two Republicans defied him and voted against the farm bill, defeating a major piece of legislation Boehner had made a test of his leadership by pushing for it publicly and voting for it personally — something speakers only do on the most important bills.
The dispute this time was over food stamps and agricultural subsidies, but the pattern was the same: House leaders lost Democratic support by tilting the bill to satisfy the Republican base, but a group of conservative purists remained upset that the legislation didn’t go far enough.
Much the same dynamic confronts Boehner as the House prepares to take up immigration legislation next month. A similar set of pressures has kept Boehner from negotiating a long-term budget deal with the White House.
In all instances, Boehner faces a choice: his job or his legacy. He can enact landmark compromises but lose his job in a conservative coup. Or he can keep his job but get nothing much done.
Beware the modern American journalist who feigns concern for any Republican, especially when discussing “compromises.” The modern political definition of the word in this country isn’t in any dictionary but means this: the Republicans cave to the Democrats.
A “landmark compromise” means the Republicans cave to the Democrats after pretending to put up some sort of effort. That gets them a pat on the head and a good slaughtering in the next election.
There are many of us on this side of the aisle who reject the choice Milbank presents for Boehner and think he should lose his job anyway.