In the aftermath of House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) mishandling of the so-called "Plan B" for the fiscal cliff, it is not a surprise that there are rumblings that his tenure as Speaker may be over by January 3rd. Boehner confronted the debacle during a press conference, expressing that it was “not the outcome I wanted, but it was the will of the House. They were dealing with the perception that someone might accuse them of raising taxes.”
Plan B was reasonable compromise between both the Republican and Democratic positions regarding taxes and spending cuts to avoid the fiscal cliff. After a 2012 election season in which Romney vowed to not increase taxes on anyone, Boehner offered President Obama a tax increase for those making over $1 million per year. Although Plan B may not have met Obama’s demands for tax increases on those earning at least $400,000 per year, it was a significant concession for Republicans to acquiesce to any tax increase. By brokering this deal on the fiscal cliff with Obama, Boehner acted in the best political interest of the Republicans and the best economic interest of the American people.
Boehner has displayed his ability to negotiate with the President and draft legislation that would ideally be amenable to both parties. However, it is clear that Boehner has lost control of the GOP caucus, which should ultimately cost him his job. Is it Boehner’s fault that there are House Republicans diametrically opposed to any tax increase? Absolutely not. Nonetheless, as Speaker of the House, Boehner has the obligation to understand the demands of his Republican colleagues and simultaneously persuade them away from their individual policy preferences in favor of the greater good of the party and the country.
Under Boehner’s speakership, compromise has become a dirty word in GOP circles and unacceptable to many of the Republicans that were newly elected in 2010. Republicans had the ability to force through legislation and gain large concessions from the Democrats when Obama’s political future was still at stake. After Obama’s reelection in November, it became Boehner’s duty to ensure that Republicans understood their declining leverage over the president and the need to reach a mutually amenable agreement on the fiscal cliff. Boehner’s failure to garner enough support from his own party is evidence of his continually waning power. There are even reports that Republicans may unseat Boehner on January 3rd through a secret ballot. Ironically enough, Boehner endorsed the Secret Ballot Protection Act on workers rights during the unionization process, thus making it unfeasible for him to oppose such a measure. This lack of this control over the GOP caucus should and will lead to Boehner’s downfall.
As for the future of the Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has become a popular choice. As the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate and a respected voice among the Tea Party, a Ryan speakership would provide greater control and stability over the Republican party in the house. Ryan has also showed his willingness to compromise on taxes as he supported the Plan B proposal, thus providing comfort to Democrats sitting across the aisle.
Boehner’s mismanagement of the fiscal cliff debate within the Republican party signals that it is time for a change in the speakership and that he must pass the gavel to someone better prepared to lead the party moving forward.