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Sunday, May 16, 2021

John Boehner: Debt And Consequences

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Joanne Butler
Joanne Butler
Joanne Butler of Wilmington is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a former professional staff member of the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Speaker Boehner’s struggles to get a debt ceiling bill passed put this question in my mind:  Will he bring the cheese doodles to Rep. Ron Paul’s upcoming retirement party?  Seriously – when the dust settles, what will Boehner do about those on the right who opposed his efforts to avoid default?

 

Let’s take Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), head of the Republican Study Committee for starters.  Jordan was one of the first to claim, proudly, that Boehner didn’t have the votes. Perhaps Jordan’s forgotten that Ohio’s due to lose two Congressional seats as a result of the 2010 Census.  One seat will probably be Dennis Kucinich’s (who’s likely shopping for a new home in Rep. Wu’s Oregon district, but that’s another story), and the other from western Ohio.  If Ohio Governor John Kasich (a Boehner supporter in the debt debate) asks the Speaker (and fellow Ohioan) for a district to give up, will Jordan’s be at the top of the list?

 

And for those freshmen who oppose Boehner’s bill – what’s in store for them?  Someday soon, several of them will seek a leadership position (such as assistant whip), but will their opposition to Boehner’s bill today harm their future prospects within the House?

 

Generally, there are three types of members in the House:  those who just want to serve their district and to chair a subcommittee when the time comes; the ambitious who want to rise in leadership; and the once-ambitious who tried to rise and failed.  How many Study Committee members would like to be in that third category?

 

Is this why Study Committee member and outspoken freshman Allen West (R-FL) broke ranks early and came out in support of Boehner’s bill?  Is this why other Study Committee members are doing the same today?

 

One guy who knows how to pivot is House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who by the way, is in a real race this cycle to defend his House seat.  On May 17, he said that he was hearing from “most people” that a default of a day or two or three or four would be acceptable if it put the U.S. in a stronger position later on.  Now it appears his mysterious “most people” have changed their minds about the impact of even a short-term default, as Ryan is supporting the Speaker’s bill. Unfortunately, his earlier waving away of the downside of a default gave comfort to those hardliners who are unfazed about a default’s repercussions – something Ryan seems to be trying to correct now with his change in position.

 

One lesson we’ve all learned from the debt ceiling crisis is that actions – and inactions – have consequences.  Once this issue has been settled (for now anyway), and Congressional members scurry home to their districts for the August recess, will the Speaker be considering certain consequences that would strengthen his hand for the next round?  We’ll have to watch and see.

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