John Boehner Caught Between Barack and a Tea Party

WASHINGTON - MARCH 31: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) speaks at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol on March 31, 2011 in Washington, DC. Boehner faced a variety of questions on topics ranging from the federal budget to the U.S. military operations in Libya. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images) Photo: Brendan Hoffman/2011 Getty Images

A woman outside of the Capitol building yesterday implored Speaker of the House John Boehner to take off his panties. She wasn't a groupie with a thing for weepy orange men. She was a tea partier, and the suggestion was meant as an emasculating insult, not a sexual overture. The tea-party activists who rallied on Capitol Hill want Boehner to stand up to the Democrats in the Senate and White House on the budget — the deadline for a new one is Friday, April 8 — not compromise with them on the depth of spending cuts. The rally was small, but tea-party activists are only one of the constituencies Boehner has to worry about as he continues to hammer out a budget deal.

The other is the group of tea-party-aligned Republican congressmen, mostly freshmen who were elected in the 2010 wave, who think $33 billion in cuts — the figure being floated as a compromise — would be a pathetic, unserious debt-reducing effort. Never mind that the $61 billion in cuts that they want, which the House passed earlier this year but couldn't get through the Senate, would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs and slow GDP growth in the midst of an economic recovery, while still not really having much more of an impact on the debt anyway. The national debt has little to do with discretionary domestic spending, yet that $28 billion difference is going to be a line in the sand for some congressmen. As Politico reports:

The restlessness — and perils — that Boehner faces are real. “If you set the bar low, you jump low,” Florida Rep. Allen West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and freshman Republican, reciting a lesson he learned in airborne training. “When you have the epic proportion problem that we have here, it’s very disturbing to me that in Washington, D.C., we always continue to talk about what less we can do and not what more we can do to resolve this issue,” West said of the budget fight. “I think we’re letting the American people down, and I don’t believe in letting anyone down.”

South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott, one of the freshmen who represents his class in GOP leadership, said he could not be sold on anything in the neighborhood of what is now being discussed with the White House. “You gotta deepen the cuts to sell it at all to me,” Scott told POLITICO. “I can’t do $33 billion. It’s a good starting point.”

Would Boehner like to cut $61 billion? Sure. But he's not an ideologue. He wants a budget that can pass both chambers of Congress (one of them is still controlled by the Democrats, remember?) and get signed by the president. Others in his caucus want to take a stand, even if that means precipitating a government shutdown.

[T]his may also be where the rivalry is clearest between Boehner and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), a favorite of the tea party movement, who also has ambitions outside the House.

“Why?” Pence said when asked whether Republicans should split the difference with Democrats. “I think we’re starting to win the argument.”

“Sometimes, the most reasonable thing in the legislative process is to be unreasonable.”

You can't argue with that logic! Literally, you cannot. That's what makes Boehner's task of threading this needle so difficult.

John Boehner faces moment of truth [Politico]

Anthony Weiner Jokes About Boehner [NYM]
Boehner’s Army [NYM]
The Tea-Party Tempest [NYM]