Boehner steadies GOP team, reframes deficit debate

House Speaker John Boehner has shored up his political clout after a shaky month, persuading his Republican caucus to pick its fights with Democrats more strategically.
Associated Press
Feb 5, 2013


His impressive rebound, aided by face-the-facts confrontations with colleagues, helped the government avoid a potential default on its financial obligations — for three months, at least.

It also reassured establishment Republicans who feared the House majority was becoming so unpredictable that it endangered the party.

But the patched-up GOP solidarity and Boehner's ability to pass bills without Democrats' help are certain to be tested again.

Surprising news this past week about a late-2012 economic slump might re-energize arguments over tax increases and impending spending cuts. An even bigger challenge will be the immigration overhaul proposals headed toward Congress.

The nation's highest-ranking Republican, who recently confronted open talk of a possible overthrow, has calmed the waters remarkably, for now.

December was a grim time for Boehner. Rank-and-file Republicans forced him to withdraw in embarrassment from White House negotiations over the much-feared "fiscal cliff," the combination of deep spending cuts and end-of-the year tax increases.

January was worse. Boehner, R-Ohio, twice had to rely on Democrats to pass major bills, and he watched a dozen fellow Republicans refuse to back his re-election as speaker.

Within days, however, he steadied his ship and persuaded his colleagues to go along with his plans to be more strategic and patient.

The implications went beyond one politician's fate. Financial markets and corporate planners were reassured when House Republicans agreed to postpone a showdown over the government's borrowing capacity.

It marked a significant cooling off by GOP conservatives, many of whom had been saying President Barack Obama's re-election meant little. Now they publicly were starting to accept the limits of minority party status in Washington.

"We're too outnumbered to govern, to make policy," said Rep. John Fleming, R-La., who had defied Boehner on votes earlier in January on the fiscal cliff and hurricane aid. "But we can make a serious impact on spending" by picking when and where to fight, Fleming said.

Republicans say Boehner's biggest breakthrough came at a two-day House GOP retreat in Virginia. With his restless caucus shut away from distractions, he lined up speakers from inside and outside Congress to help explain what he saw as fiscal and political realities.

In a speech a few days later, Boehner summarized the case he made to his colleagues. In the upcoming debates over taxes and deficit spending, he said, Republicans must decide "where's the ground that we fight on? Where's the ground that we retreat on? Where are the smart fights?"

The decisions will come soon.

Aside from big spending cuts scheduled to start March 1, lawmakers must choose whether to fund the government for another year. Some conservatives say they may temporarily shut down the government if Democrats don't accept deep spending cuts and no new tax revenues.

Boehner, at least for a while, can bask in achievements that were far from certain just a short time ago.

Dozens of House Republicans who had once refused to increase the debt ceiling without corresponding spending cuts — a position Boehner had just abandoned — backed down after the House retreat. Republican campaign strategists fear severe setbacks if voters blame the party for a default on U.S. financial obligations.

The concessions also seem to have put the speaker back on track for passing major bills with solid GOP majorities.

Early in January, Boehner twice had to abandon the "majority of the majority" rule that has guided House speakers for years. That rule says that whenever possible, a speaker wants to avoid passing major legislation that most of the speaker's party members oppose.

But unyielding Republicans forced Boehner's hand Jan. 1 on the fiscal cliff.

He had to rely chiefly on Democrats' votes to enact an Obama-backed budget deal to avoid a tax increase on most Americans and instead raise them for the more affluent. Two weeks later, Boehner again had to accept most Republicans' abandonment on a deficit-financed spending bill to help victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Perhaps Boehner's darkest moment came on Dec. 20, when conservative colleagues rejected his counteroffer to Obama's bid to raise taxes on the wealthy.

The setback not only embarrassed the speaker, but also forced him to the sidelines, requiring Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to step in as the top GOP on the fiscal cliff.

Yet within four weeks, Boehner and his allies had vastly improved party discipline and coherence.

Boehner made his closing arguments at the party's annual mid-January retreat in Williamsburg, Va., where reporters and other outsiders were mostly kept at bay.

A daylong session began with Boehner explaining what he saw as the financial and political "facts about the debt ceiling," a participant said. Next up were his top lieutenants, to amplify his remarks and discuss possible options: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party's vice presidential nominee last year.

They left no doubt of the party hierarchy's allegiance to Boehner.

House Republicans agreed to postpone the debt-ceiling showdown for three months. That will let Congress deal first with two less dire issues in which Republicans feel they have more leverage: the scheduled start of big, across-the-board spending cuts and the need to approve funds to keep the government running another year.

"Everybody took a hard look at it and said we can't govern from the House of Representatives," said Republican strategist Mike McKenna. Rather than confront Obama "army to army," McKenna said, Republicans decided to "do a little more sniper action."

It's unclear how long the calm will last.

The 151 House Republicans who voted against the Boehner-backed fiscal cliff deal on Jan. 1 "will get tired of the incrementalism of the debt ceiling" issue, McKenna predicted. For now, however, he joins others in saluting Boehner's breakthrough.

The decision to put other deficit-reduction issues ahead of the debt ceiling decision, McKenna said, "is probably one of the most artful things the House Republicans have done in the last 12 years."




I don't believe either the Congress or the White House understands that this isn't about POLITICS anymore, its about saving a nation. The people are sick and tired of the politics playing more of a role in the problems we have then they do the solutions to our biggests problems.

We can no longer afford to be "parties". We can afford to be Americans. If they would just get that through their thick skulls and get on with it, perhaps this country might move forward intead of taking one step forward and ten steps back.

I am praying that this year they finally learn that they all have to work together. There are no winners and losers in this game, only the game itself. We either survive it or we don't. For once, I hope they get on with it, do something of value and make choices that are meaningful, competent and insightful. If they don't, we are all doomed.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


Why did you change your posts? Trolling?


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.


It's not worth my time or aggravation to battle today. Maybe tomorrow, but not today


A legitimate statement.


wiredmama222 writes:

"We can afford to be Americans."

The 'problem' is that we can't "afford to be Americans" yet we continue to act like it.

We are approaching a federal budget deficit of $17T and it's growing.

50% of all Treasuries are financed by foreign parties, the balance by the Federal Reserve.

We have been living beyond our means for decades and are mortgaging our future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren.

The Democrats won't quit borrowing and spending and the Republicans don't have the political will and/or the power to stop them.

Either taxes need to be raised on EVERY American or debt financed entitlement spending needs to be curtailed - sharply.

2013 - $17T Federal deficit
2016 - $20T Federal deficit

Like individuals, countries can and do go bankrupt. Never say that it can’t happen here.


@Contango It is not just Democrats. In 2002 when asked about the then record deficit Dick Cheney replied " The debt doesn't matter!" IT IS BOTH PARTIES! They need to quit finger pointing and work together!


@ bucknut36:

Cheney? Not a quote - hearsay.

"Work togther" to do what? Put our country increasingly into debt and servitude?


Here Contango,
I know you won't read it, just like you don't read your own.


Pick it's fights ? Not work together , negotiate , get something done , move on , or serve this country's needs ? Sound like more stonewalling ahead . It's always about the campaign . Both sides want to win the prize , but neither cares about the work . I have an idea let's evaluate their performance and base their pay and or employment on the results , like they want to do with the teachers .


Im telling you people. Until you start voting out these goons who don't hold true to their word, nothing will get done. Instead we re-elect a failing president, who even said on record...boot me out if I don't get what I promised done.

If you dont use your VOTE and simply party vote because you don't like the way one guy combs his hair, or because he is black or a woman.....none of that matters. Its ACTIONS. 4 more years of failing here we come.


It's easy to put all the blame on the president or one party , but when you vote along party lines like the Republicans have just to muck up progress to make the president look bad it becomes obvious the Conservatives are waging a campaign of hindrance . The election has past . Now is the time to work . Not on the next election , but to get things done . The people have spoken and the Conservatives need to listen . You'll get your chance next time , but until then do your jobs like adults .


Excessive printing, borrowing, taxing and spending got us into this fiscal mess and so more printing, borrowing, taxing and spending will get us out?

Yea, let 'em work together toward fiscal collapse.

The federal budget deficit ain't approaching $17T all by itself.


Bluto are you saying that the democrats do not vote along party lines?

Are you sure that the reason the republicans vote as they do is just to muck up the progress to make the president look bad? If that is the case then you must be thinking that no matter what the president wants everyone should vote for his ideas.

The taxes have already been raised and much of the tax increase has been because of Obamacare, Although I do not feel it would be a good idea to raise taxes again I think maybe it must be done however if it is done then there should be spending cuts as taxes cannot be raised enough to bail the country out of the financial problems. I sincerely hope that if taxes are raised that the republicans demand spending cuts.

I do collect social security and have medicare and if it means cutting my monthly check and increasing my deductibles to aid the country's financial problems than do it. If I will need to pay more taxes I will however do not increase my taxes without spending cuts.


I am not saying they don't .I am also not saying you're wrong . And yes , the Republicans are on record as saying they wanted to make Obama a one term president and have done their best to block everything he has proposed . I'm saying that both parties need to meet in the middle and get on with it . Instead they are letting their parties more extreme agendas take precedence over the well being of the country . This is not the time for that .


Bluto writes:

"...the Republicans are on record as saying they wanted to make Obama a one term president and have done their best to block everything he has proposed."

And why would Sen. McConnell have said that?

Other than borrow, tax and spend, what EXACTLY has Pres. BHO "proposed?"

The Dems used their two yrs. to ram through Obamacare, stimulus spend, etc. Why didn't they take care of the deficit?

Obamacare is supposed to save money. Based on studies, it seems to be raising costs by 30% or more.


If you're going to mention "borrow, tax and spend", you should mention the president who did that more than any other. W put two unnecessary wars on our country's credit card. He inherited a budget SURPLUS, and left office 8 years later with our economy in complete meltdown, free fall mode.

Always cracks me up to hear Conservatives whine about the deficit, since most of them were curiously silent when Bush grew the deficit exponentially during his presidency. The good news, is that Americans in fewer and fewer numbers are siding with the GOP these days. Dem presidential candidates have won the popular vote in five of the past six elections.


coasterfan writes:

"If you're going to mention "borrow, tax and spend", you should mention the president who did that more than any other."

Keep drinking the Obama Kook-Aid.

Pres. Obama has four straight yrs. of $1T budget deficits - a historical first.


Well said Bluto. Unfortunately alot of people are unable to comprehend this.


"Comprehend this":

Talk is cheap; action is and will be expensive.

Let Obama and friends put a budget together and let's see the dollars and cents.


I recall reading that since 1968-69 Congress has stolen on the order of $5 trillion out of SS and Medicare, you know, programs paid via payroll deductions and matching funds by employers. Then they add it the national debt that they claim each of us must help pay off. How many times do they want to steal the same money from us?

But it's OK. We'll argue R's and D's and be outraged at public sector leeches who are REALLY to blame, because politicians told us so it must be true.

Jump off the cliff, lemmings. Make sure you bequeath all your money to the feds in your will before you go.


Yep! LBJ's 1969 unified budget where he was trying to pay for both "guns and butter."

SS, Medicare and Medicaid are “pay-go’: The money comes in, the money goes out.

All those programs are just accounting gimmicks.


I agree " Talk is cheap " and action is getting more expensive every day that nothing gets done . Perhaps another major hit to the economy is what's needed to wake up the politicians in Washington . It's funny , the whole world can see what is happening in U.S. politics , and it has become an embarrassment .


Bluto writes:

"Perhaps another major hit to the economy is what's needed to wake up the politicians in Washington."

Agreed, it seemed to have helped to clean up N'Orleans.

Unfortunately, there is no one big enough to bail the U.S. out.


Another major hit is right around the corner, but our politicians don't think so. They all are so full of hot air.


Really? The GOP sure as heck didn't learn anything from the Great Bush Recession. They were peddling the same disastrous economic policies during the 2012 election.


you are like a broken record. no need to respond to you, you simply do not get it. Sheep....baaaaaaaaaaa


SSShhh! I think I just heard a Repooplican.


I love when someone says that I need to listen or the people have spoken. If you took the working class alone and held the vote all over again, the results would have been different.

Obama hasn't proved SQUAT. Can't even come up with a budget, says we have no spending problem and continues to campaign kick into his second term.

I don't have to prove anything, this president has to prove to us.....remember he works for us, not the other way around.....somehow Americans have forgotten this.

Im still waiting Obama................but I wont hold my breath. I'd already be dead by now.


I look to the House and the Senate as more of the cause of the problem then Obama . With the kind of filibustering going on , no president would have a chance .


Agree to some extent, but Obama has also been very one sided in actions.


For the majority of his term, Pres. Reagan had both a Dem HOR and Senate.

It's called: Compromise.


Yes , but compromise has become a dirty word in Washington .


Note: Obama ain't no Reagan.

IMO, here's the "compromise": How slowly do you want the U.S. to go bankrupt?


You don't know what you are talking about , Mr. Misinformation.


"Obama ain't no Reagan"

No,Obama has a memory and has not raised your taxes several times.

Note: Reagan ain't no Obama"


@ deertracker:

The point was "compromise."

Regardless, 99% of the "Bush tax cuts" are now the "Obama tax cuts."

Yea, let's just keep borrowing and spending, while letting the Fed do most of the "heavy lifting" on the economy.

The Big Dog's back

Good one deertracker. winnie is mumbling to himself.


Deertracker I think that to support Obamacare that 650 billion in new taxes is just starting. In addition he is calling for more revenue.
Say that he is only taxing thr rich an many of the rich own businesses that supply products and services for the average consumer and the higher taxes considered as part of the overhead will be passed on to the consumer.
Of course if you do not buy any products or services then you will not be affected by the new taxes


Once again liberals have selected memory. His first term on his first day he signed SCHIP allowing underachieving basement dwellers to stay on mommy and daddy's health plan. To pay for it he put an additional tax on tobacco products and slammed the door on non taxable bulk tobacco. Granted not all citizens smoke or drink but I enjoy cigars and fine bourbon occasionally thus he raised my taxes on his first day on his first term.


"President Barack Obama will ask Congress to come up with tens of billions of dollars in short-term spending cuts and tax revenue to put off the automatic across the board cuts that are scheduled to kick in March 1, White House officials said Tuesday."

And his "plan" is where?


This fool will can kick until he is forced out of the office in 4 years and then tell his sheep he saved America.......each and everyday we are looking more and more like BROKE EUROPE!


They all need to read "Revolution" by Ron Paul and make the necessary changes to our government and economic systems to revert back to Constitutional basics.

Too much back-slapping with special and big money interests.

Get busy or get out. We are getting too anxious to let this continue until the Nation is bankrupt.


Was there a president before ronnie that borrowed from social security?


Yes. LBJ started it.


Yes it was LBJ that merged the social securty funds with the general funds prior to that they were seperate. If an individual would handle their finances the way the government does some of theirs they would be convicted and sent to jail.It does also seem that much of the government spending is not visible for the tax payer to see and I think that is wrong.


Record number of Americans on SSDI, food stamps and welfare. Labor force participation numbers are at 30 yr. lows and the national unemployment rate is higher than Jan. 2009.

Yea, this Obama "recovery" is really goin' great!


Keep electing the same people and the results won't change. This is at all levels of government. Politicians will always have theirs, They don't care about the common person.