Friday, March 01, 2013

Besieged Boehner

As the just-concluded fight over the Violence Against Women Act, as well as the recent dust-ups over the fiscal cliff and Hurrican Sandy relief demonstrate, Speaker of the House John Boehner has been so boxed-in by the extreme exigencies of his caucus that he's unable to advance must-pass legislation without violating the so-called "Hastert Rule," named for former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, which requires any Republican speaker to garner majority support from his own caucus before voting. This essentially forces an informal "supermajority" threshold on the House of Representatives just like the one that's ground things to a halt over yonder in the Senate.

I've said it before but it's worth repeating: I really do feel bad for Speaker Boehner. I may have a host of disagreements with the man over policy positions he holds, but he's no dope. He knows the bipartisan calculus required to get things done, but it just so happens that this moment in history coupled with the configuration of House Republicans has made him the congressional equivalent of Quinton McHale. Talk about a thankless gig. As Steve Kornacki over at Salon explains, with the pressing deadline of the sequester beckoning, another Hastert violation is likely just the start of the dregs Boehner must plumb if he has any hope of saving House Republicans from themselves (and it's no guarantee they even want to be saved, mind you).

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