Yesterday, Boehner issued a statement following a senate cloture vote to advance an extension of unemployment benefits. "One month ago I personally told the White House that another extension of temporary emergency unemployment benefits should not only be paid for but include something to help put people back to work," a written statement reads. "To date, the president has offered no such plan. If he does, I’ll be happy to discuss it, but right now the House is going to remain focused on growing the economy and giving America’s unemployed the independence that only comes from finding a good job."
So basically, Boehner says he wants another hostage shot before he'll release this particular hostage. "There’s quite a bit wrong with this," says Steve Benen. "For example, Boehner knows jobless Americans need these benefits and knows cutting off aid will hurt the economy, but insists on spending cuts to offset the costs. Why? He didn’t say. What needs to get cut? He didn’t say. Why have Republicans supported previous extensions without offsetting cuts, only to change course now? He didn’t say."
He wants something cut. He knows there are no popular cuts to make. So he demands that someone else do the dirty work. Choose what gets cut for him or the long term unemployed get it. He wants an unpopular slashing of something or other -- simply for the sake of appearances -- and he wants to be able to walk away with the appearance of clean hands. He wants the extension paid for, but he wants someone else (preferably the White House) to take the blame for that offset.
As I said, no Profile in Courage here.
It'd be a lot easier to take Boehner seriously if he could actually articulate what it is exactly that he wants, but I doubt even he knows. This is more a case of opportunism than anything. The Speaker thinks he can maybe, possibly squeeze a little something-something out of this situation; even if he isn't extremely clear on what that something might be.
"The larger takeaway from the statement is that the Speaker of the House sees the Senate moving on unemployment benefits and wants to make it perfectly clear that he has certain expectations," Benen explains. "While some see this as an emergency for struggling families and a key economic issue, Boehner senses an opportunity -- the plight of jobless Americans can be exploited to advance Republican priorities." Which priorities? Well, we'll leave that up to the President to decide.
Add "leadership" to the list of those admirable qualities John of Orange most sorely lacks.
The question here is whether Boehner is bluffing. I haven't seen a whip count yet, but it's entirely plausible that an extension could pass the House on mainly Democratic votes. All Weepy John needs to do is bring it up for a vote. So the thing that would prevent this very popular extension from happening is good old fashioned Republican obstructionism -- in an election year.
Boehner might possibly be able to walk away from his unspecified offset with clean hands, but not so with shooting the hostage if he doesn't get his way. If the extension dies in the House, everyone will know why. And everyone will know whodunit.
It's hard to see how he can shoot the hostage, when he so clearly wants someone else to take the blame for everything. It would be a bit of a suicide mission and, as I've already pointed out, John Boehner doesn't have the courage for that sort of thing.
[photo by Gage Skidmore]