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Boehner is an incapable Speaker of the House

Staff Columnist

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 22:02

Speaker of the House John Boehner should either resign his position as the top House Republican or the members of his caucus should launch a coup to replace him.

There, I said it. And it seems to be something that countless conservatives believe should happen, but object to launching a public campaign to make it happen. In fact, a group of 25 Republicans disgruntled with Boehner’s abilities as their leader sought to unseat him on the day of his re-election as Speaker, but called off their plan when one unnamed member decided at the last minute that he no longer wanted to be a part of the coordinated effort.

In hindsight, I genuinely wish that that effort would have been successful. And here’s why:
To borrow the quintessential Jane Austen phrase, “it is a truth universally acknowledged” that Boehner has virtually no control over his caucus. He is continuously unable to garner a majority of his caucus for the most consequential pieces of legislation. Six times since he told his caucus in 2012 that he is “not interested in passing something with mostly Democrat votes,” has done just that, most recently last week, when he permitted a floor vote on a “clean” debt ceiling hike. That bill passed with a mere 12 percent support among Republicans, relying on 193 Democrat votes.

Thus, I ask: if the minority party is responsible for the passage of every single significant bill, what is the effective purpose of a majority party? Presently, out of a 232-member caucus, Boehner seems to think he is the only House Republican whose opinion is relevant on legislative matters. For Boehner, it seems to matter not what the wishes are of the vast majority of his caucus. An effective leader would not betray 88 percent of his followers, but instead, work with them on acquiring their support for key pieces of legislation.

In order for a leader to be effective, he must have earned the respect of his followers, and his followers must be willing give deference to him at critical times. Unfortunately for Boehner, he has failed to earn respect, and the result is the dynamic that is currently playing out in Congress: some matter needs urgent attention (like the debt ceiling), Boehner tries to persuade fellow Republicans to get on board, Bohener fails, and thus resorts to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi so that the bill can pass just in time to avert a crisis scenario.

Let’s examine legislative immigration reform as further proof of the sheer impotency of Boehner to move his caucus. On Jan. 30, House leadership circulated a list of immigration principles within the caucus, and Boehner was publically optimistic regarding the prospects of successful passage of reform. The next day, President Obama told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he was not ruling out the GOP’s ideas, and said he was “encouraged” by the proposal. And then, in a widely unexpected move, Boehner conceded that “it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation” due to the “widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws.” So, within a week, the Speaker unveiled a thoughtful proposal for a central political issue, was publically sanguine that the House could pass reform by the conclusion of this year, and then essentially ruled out any hope that such reform could pass.

Any effective leader would not allow himself to be so utterly embarrassed and, more importantly, would have been more keenly aware as to the positions of his caucus. This is precisely the reason why it is my strong belief that Boehner can no longer serve as Speaker. Ideally, he should resign his position, setting up an open race for the seat. Let there be a strongly contested race, and may the best choice—one who will be more closely aligned with the beliefs of his fellow Republicans and who will be able to negotiate with the president, having the full trust of his members behind him—win.

As a passionate conservative who desperately wants to see a cohesive opposition party that can articulate and defend a particular belief, I do not see any other way this can be accomplished without a leader. And this is why I heartily believe that Boehner must be replaced with someone who would have the esteem of his colleagues.  

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