What became of a strong House speaker?

John Boehner seems like a decent enough fellow. I’ve long thought of him as someone whose instincts lead him toward working with Democrats, not against them.

But the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has this problem: It is that some of his fellow Republicans don’t like working with the other party. There seems to be enough of those types to make governing quite difficult for the once-affable speaker.


Boehner today said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the House is a rambunctious place. It’s full of members with competing ideas on how to get things done. He said “I think” I can lead the House.

Interesting, yes? Well, yes.

The speaker was handed a big defeat this past week when the House defeated his plan to fund the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks. The “rambunctious caucus” of the House, aka the TEA party wing, bolted from his idea, along with a number of Democrats. Some last-minute scrambling enabled the House to approve a DHS funding bill that expires at the end of this week. Then we get to do this all over again.

I’m trying to imagine how past speakers would handle all this rambunctiousness. Would Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas allow it? How about Speaker Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts? Hey, do you think Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia would stand still for this foolishness?

These three gentlemen — two Democrats and a Republican — were among the stronger-willed men to run the House. They all governed with considerable effectiveness. Their secret? My belief is that they all knew how to work with members of the “other party.” They also worked well with presidents of the other party, working overtime to search for common ground.

Speaker Boehner is being whipsawed by his own caucus. It’s not a pretty sight.

By definition, Speaker Boehner is the Man of the Entire House, not just of his or her political party. The partisan roles are filled by the majority leader and the majority whip of the party in charge. The speaker, though, is supposed to look after the interests of all House members.

Boehner has to figure out a way — in a big hurry — to get the rowdy bunch in line.

I have an idea: Pick up the phone, call Newt Gingrich and ask him: “Newt, how in the world can I corral these clowns?”

One thought on “What became of a strong House speaker?”

  1. Most Speakers, in the modern era, had “earmarks.” Boehner doesn’t. If you can’t control the money that goes to a district, the Representative thereof, has no reason to roll with the Speaker, but it’s even worse than that.

    The 52 or so that broke with the Boehner on Friday, don’t care about dollars for their district, or any other. In fact, the only district they fret about is the District Of Columbia, and that they design to bankrupt. The wouldn’t know the nation building politics of Henry Clay from the guy who invented “Play Dough.” But best believe they click their heels when someone chats up that Papa of nullification, John C Calhoun.

    They claim their beef with funding DHS is in response to POTUS and his “illegal executive order” concerning immigration. These Congressman pout and shout with Home Team certainty that the President is acting unconstitutionally.

    And while a Federal judge in Texas does see it their way, how often has a first blush interpretation of complexed questions regarding administrative law and separation of powers ping-ponged, nay- then-yea, up the appellate level to end up a net five/ four SCOTUS score… for, or against.

    No one knows, and no wise man would wager the farm, much less the funding of the Nation’s security, be it even for an hour, on what may, or may not, ruffle those SCOTUS robes.

    But these radicals run with a certainty akin to end time prophecy. But that’s not a political designation. So, I’ll play crazy with’ em and anoint them all, oxymoronically, “Anarchistic Authoritarians.”

    And by the by. There might be a bit of karma in play regarding the barkeep from Ohio. This Speaker, in his early days as a Congressman, handed out tobacco money in the well of the “People’s House.”

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