House Speaker John Boehner is like the ineffectual substitute teacher whose presence barely keeps an unruly class in line, and whose exit ensures that chaos will ensue. Boehner’s exit leaves a chaotic House GOP without adult supervision.
On Friday, Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that he would resign from Congress, after 25 years, effective on October 30. Though Boehner was apparently deeply moved by meeting Pope Francis and hearing the pontiff address a joint session of Congress, and there was some speculation that it was Boehner’s tipping point, Boehner himself suggested that he’d just had enough of trying to keep the most radical members of his caucus in line.
Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Boehner slammed the hard-line conservatives who were cheering his resignation, as “false prophets” who were more interested in “spreading noise” that accomplishing anything real.
“The Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there, you know, spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean this whole notion that we’re going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013 – this plan never had a chance,” Boehner told CBS.
“But over the course of the August recess in 2013 and in September, a lot of my Republican colleagues who knew this was a fool’s errand — really, they were getting all this pressure from home to do this,” he added.
Boehner said that conservative groups and lawmakers had “whipped people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know — they know — are never going to happen.” Boehner was speaking of the 2013 government shutdown over defunding the Affordable Care Act, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). But he could just have easily been talking about the current efforts of House Republicans to shut down the government over defunding Planned Parenthood.
Then as now, House Republicans are threatening to take the entire nation hostage, to accomplish what they failed to through any legitimate means. Republicans twice failed to defeat Barack Obama, who made health care reform a central issue of his campaign; failed to stop Congress from passing the Affordable Care Act; and twice failed to persuade the Supreme Court to overturn the law. An overwhelming 72 percent of Americans — including most Republicans — were opposed to a government shutdown before it happened. Afterward, the GOP suffered major damage, as 53 percent of Americans blamed the GOP for the shutdown; only 32 percent said they had a favorable view of the GOP, while 63 percent had an unfavorable view of Republicans.
Now, Republican hardliners want to force another government shutdown over defunding Planned Parenthood. The movement to defund Planned Parenthood arises in the aftermath of the release of deceptively edited, fraudulent videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood officials talking with potential “vendors” about harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted fetuses. The organization accounts for less than 1 percent of the federal budget, and dedicates three percent of its resources to abortion services.
As with the 2013 shutdown, House Republicans are pushing an agenda most Americans don’t want. Multiple state investigations have found that the charges leveled against Planned Parenthood are bogus. A majority of Americans support government funding for Planned Parenthood. Over 70 percent of Americans opposed a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood.
The House Republicans ready to go to battle to defund Planned Parenthood are members of the House Freedom Caucus, the group of hardliners who pushed Boehner out. Its members were also among those who supported the 2013 government shutdown over defunding Obamacare, and wanted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security over President Obama’s immigration executive action.
The House Freedom Caucus formed after its members broke from the Republican Study Group (RSC), formed to be the most conservative wing of the House Republicans, complaining that the RSC just wasn’t limited to “just the hard-core right-wingers” anymore. “If you want to pay dues, you can get in,” complained Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who likened the RSC to “a debate society.”
Earlier this month, that “debate society” introduced a fiscal 2016 budget proposal that:
● Defunds Planned Parenthood
● Prohibits funding for the Affordable Care Act
● Prohibits funding for resident Obama’s immigration executive actions
● Prevents the president from lifting any sanctions against Iran.
Defunding Planned Parenthood would cost the federal government dearly. Federal spending would increase $130 million over 10 years. Women who depend on Planned Parenthood’s services would have a harder time avoiding unwanted pregnancies. Their additional births would be covered by Medicaid, and the needs of their children would have to be met by other safety-net programs, increasing Medicaid spending alone by $650 million. Net spending would increase by far more than the cost of funding Planned Parenthood.
Defunding Obamacare would have dire consequences for millions of Americans. Over 17 million who have gained health care coverage would rejoin the ranks of the uninsured. Millions more who gained coverage as a result of the Medicaid expansion would lose their coverage as well. The results would wreak havoc on our health and health care system.
This is to say nothing of the $7.1 trillion the RSC budget would cut; much more than the $5.5 trillion cut by the House GOP budget blueprint introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.). It would increase the Pentagon base budget from $523 billion under the House budget to $570 billion, while cutting non-defense discretionary spending on domestic programs by $88 billion, including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Yet this is not “hard core” enough for the “Freedom Caucus” fringe who finally succeeded in getting rid of Boehner.
CNN reported Monday that the Freedom Caucus is angling for greater influence over the next speaker. “It’s unclear whether it will vote as a block, but its members want to extract some promises in return for their support. They are demanding the next leader be more willing to fight for conservative principles, present a long term vision, and allow the group to have a role in shaping the legislative agenda.”
This angling comes not long after one of its members, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), left the Freedom Caucus over its “counterproductive” hardball tactics.
It was Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson who came up with the comparison of Boehner to “a hapless substitute teacher whose unruly class refuses to come to order.” Having failed to lead House Republicans toward the standard that Pope Francis set for political leaders in his speech before the House – “to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good” – Boehner will leave behind a Republican class even more disposed to yelling and throwing spitballs instead of the work the American people sent them to do.
Isaiah J. Poole contributed to this post.