In a private meeting of the House Republican caucus on Tuesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner laid out a three part goal to resolve the dispute: build on past gains, avoid new taxes, and "put points on the board." That's the private Boehner. In public, as he hollered on Friday, "This isn't some damn game!" The comments reflect Boehner's ongoing struggle to find a budget deal that could both pass the Senate and satisfy most of the House GOP. So far, he's discarded a "clean" government-funding bill, a funding bill that included symbolic measure calling for the defunding of Obamacare, and a "grand bargain" to raise the debt limit and tackle taxes and spending.
Here's the report from the Republican conference, as always via the well-sourced National Review.
Speaker John Boehner rallied his troops this morning at a closed-door conference meeting at the Capitol. Democrats are trying to “annihilate us,” he told his members. “We can get through this if we stick together.”
The Ohio Republican added that a “grand bargain” is off the table. What he wants is something that “builds on the gains we’ve made over the past three years, puts points on the board, and doesn’t raise taxes.”
The good news is that this suggests Boehner is open to a small win for his caucus, suggesting that the stalemate could end sooner rather than later. We knew this, of course; last week, we articulated that a small gain to placate Republicans could mean an end to the debate. It's as Rep. Marlin Stutzman (now famously) said: "We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is." Points are as good as anything.
The bad news is: Come on, man, get it together. Here was Boehner during a press conference on Friday following that morning's caucus meeting. He was referring to comments in the Journal from a senior administration official.
I was at the White House the other night and listening to the president some 20 times explain to me why he wasn't going to negotiate. Sat there and listened to the majority leader in the United States Senate say he's not going to talk until we surrender. Then this morning, I get The Wall Street Journal out and it says, "We don't care how long this lasts because we're winning." This isn't some damn game!
These sports metaphors are hardly new to politics. It's just generally better if you maintain some consistency when using them. So which does Boehner actually believe? Is this a game in which it's important to score points, or is it a serious attempt to resolve serious issues? Let Boehner's half-hearted prop usage in the above video guide your evaluation.
Photo: Boehner at a Kentucky basketball game. (AP)