The Boehner Supremacy

Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigration America's Voice, had this to say about Speaker of the House John Boehner and the immigration bill: “The fate of the Republican Party may rest in Boehner’s hands.”

A comforting thought, that -- if you're a Democrat.

In truth, Boehner is in one helluva spot. The Light Brigade has got nothing on the speaker. They both may have "cannon to the left of them, cannon to the right of them, cannon in front of them," but Boehner is also sitting on a nuclear bomb while the Sword of Damocles hangs over his head.

Everyone who is anyone in the Republican Party is mad at him. He's catching hell from the Tea Party caucus and the hard right for even entertaining the notion of bringing an immigration bill to the floor. And the more establishment-oriented party whales are looking nervously at the polls and putting pressure on the speaker to bring to the House floor comprehensive reform that will probably emerge from the Senate in the next few weeks. The money men are worried that if the House kills off immigration reform, the GOP will pay the price at the ballot box in both 2014 and 2016.

It got so bad this week that Boehner had to assure his caucus in a closed-door meeting that he wouldn't bring any immigration bill to the floor unless it was supported by half the Republicans in Congress. This is after a veteran congressman threatened to lead an effort to oust Boehner from his speakership unless he got that majority support. The Rohrbacher Ultimatum smoked Boehner out of the closet he'd been hiding in on immigration reform, as this announcement was the first indication of what his plans are going forward.

From the Rohrbacher Ultimatum to the Boehner Supremacy, the speaker brings to mind the character Jason Bourne. Not the insipid movie character played by Matt Damon, but the tortured, fragile instrument of lethality drawn by author Robert Ludlum in the trio of books that Hollywood gutted and destroyed on film. As written by Ludlum, Jason Bourne (a.k.a. David Webb) was not an assassin. He was a CIA cutout created to draw Carlos the Jackal out of hiding so he could be killed.

But Bourne/Webb was also a tortured soul. He couldn't figure out who he was. Evidence kept pointing to him being a notorious international killer, but his beloved Marie (a Canadian economist stationed in Geneva, not some hippie chick who lived off the grid) believed he couldn't be that man. Boehner doesn't know whether he should act alike a statesman or a partisan hack. If he acts like a statesman, he may feel good about himself but could also lose his job. If he acts like a partisan, his base will be satisfied but the New York Times and Washington Post will call him names. And, who knows? Maybe the money men are right and the GOP will get slaughtered in 2014 if they block immigration reform.

Boehner is trying to keep his options open, according to Time magazine:

On Tuesday he seemed to assure his colleagues that he would not pass a bill without them, but left himself plenty of outs. “Any immigration reform bill that is going to go into law ought to have a majority of both parties’ support,” he said. “And so I don’t see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn’t have a majority support of Republicans.” Ought to; not will. And just because he doesn’t “see any way” now doesn’t mean one won’t emerge.