Question #1: What is the Speaker of the House on?
Question #2: Where can I get some?
We had occasion, yesterday, to review the Speaker’s odd behavior during a press briefing on Wednesday, but apparently Mr. Boehner’s message didn’t come across well enough; the pesky press had the audacity to ask him questions on Thursday. Walter Einenkel picks it up from there:
The easy joke is that it is kinda gross and strange and weird. It’s a bad attempt at lightening the mood by Boehner. The real grotesque quality is not that Boehner did something awkward and condescending, it’s the fact that he is being asked a very serious question, about the single issue he is there to discuss, with real information at his fingertips. His response and that of some of the press is that this is a game where no one asks or expects real answers as there is no reason for anyone to say anything with integrity or honesty or import.
The question being asked is not how John Boehner makes kissy faces to nieces and nephews when they leave after the holidays. It’s about thousands of people’s salaries. Government employees charged with protecting every American citizen living on American soil. It’s a serious question.
It’s worth mentioning, of course, that what the Speaker said on Wednesday, that he was waiting for the Senate to act, appears to be untrue. NBC News reported yesterday, “House Republicans are floating a plan to delay a possible shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security by voting on a short-term measure to keep the agency funded and continue their immigration fight into next month.”
That’s right; not only did the Speaker decide to not wait for the Senate, it appears House Republicans intend yet another of their infamous short-term extensions in order to push the issue down the road for a month and regroup in hopes of not losing yet another ridiculous, unnecessary political punch-up.
Steve Benen notes that in addition to the Speaker’s inability to comprehend his own words, there is also the bizarre and amateurish form of House GOP politicking:
Can’t anybody here play this game?
It’s true, of course, that a short-term, three-week extension of current funding would prevent a DHS shutdown tonight. If given a choice between kicking the can down the road and nothing, the Senate may feel like it has no choice but to accept this silly solution.
The obvious flaw, however, is that this wouldn’t solve the underlying problem, so much as it delays the inevitable for no apparent reason. The less-obvious flaw is that the Speaker’s office is effectively abandoning the whole idea of leverage.
One starts to wonder if maybe this isn’t all a fundraising ruse, so that Republicans can pretend to be outraged in order to rally their supporters. As Benen notes, the gambit hinges on whether Democrats believe House Republicans will “shoot the hostage”, a phrase which here means cutting DHS funding as revenge against the White House having undertaken executive action after the Speaker himself publicly told the President to use his executive authority.
And just as we saw with the fiscal cliff and other hardline standoffs fomented in and by House Republicans, Boehner simply isn’t willing to squeeze the trigger:
The Speaker set the rules for this game, but he’s not playing it well. Boehner is simultaneously telling the political world, “Give us what we want or Homeland Security is in deep trouble,” and “Don’t worry, we don’t actually intend to hurt Homeland Security.”
Which, in turn, leaves open the question of whether he intends to kick the can in order to kick it again next month, or whether the Speaker just wants some more time, for some reason, before surrendering.
Is this really what Americans are asking of their Congress when they vote?
Well, we know about the Democratic votes. But what of our Republican neighbors?
Really? A series of cheap bluffs apparently intended to encourage supporters to send money while bulwarking the proposition that government does not and cannot work by sabotaging its ability to perform its basic functions?
No wonder the Speaker is down to making kissy faces.
He’s got nothing else to offer.
Image note: House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio responds to reporters about the impasse over passing the Homeland Security budget because of Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House voted last month to end Homeland Security funding on Saturday unless Obama reverses his order to protect millions of immigrants from possible deportation. After Democratic filibusters blocked the bill in the Senate, the chaber’s Republican leaders agreed this week to offer a “clean” funding measure, with no immigration strings attached. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Einenkel, Walter. “House Speaker John Boehner does something so strange in response to serious question from reporter”. Daily Kos. 26 February 2015.
Russert, Luke, et al. “House GOP Floats Short-Term Fix for DHS Impasse”. NBC News. 26 February 2015.
Benen, Steve. “House Speaker forgets how leverage works”. msnbc. 27 February 2015.