Saturday, September 26, 2015

John Boehner's Resignation Illustrates the Curse of the Speaker

The Speaker of the House, be it in Congress or the State House, is one of the most powerful individuals in government. Congress’ Speaker of the House is third in line for the Presidency. And yet Speaker Boehner is resigning to great consternation and bewilderment amongst the pundits. John Boehner is resigning from office. So did Newt Gingrich and Jim Wright while Tom Foley was defeated for reelection. Jim Wright had an ethics problem. Newt Gingrich like John Boehner was facing a revolt from his caucus. Dennis Hastert and Nancy Pelosi ceded their speakerships because their parties lost a majority in the House. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Tip O’Neill in 1987 was the last Speaker to leave on his terms. The situation is no different at the state level. Four state speakers lost their jobs in 2014 and 2015 because of criminal indictments or guilty pleas to criminal prosecutions. They are Mike Hubbard of Alabama (indicted October 2014), Sheldon Silver of New York (arrested in January 2015), Gordon Fox of Rode Island (pled guilty), and Bobby Harrell of South Carolina (indicted September 2014) In addition John Diehl of Missouri resigned in May 2015 because he was caught exchanging “sexually suggestive texts” with a 19 year old legislative intern. Let us not forget that three successive Massachusetts of the House were indicted for corruption (Charles Flaherty, Tom Finneran, and Salvatore Di Masi) over a 5 year period while two former Pennsylvania speakers received early release from prison in fraud cases in early 2014. It was a bipartisan showing by the Republican John Perzel and the Democrat Bill DeWeese. Speaker Boehner lost the confidence of his caucus and the Republican base. Americans, especially Republicans, are angry with Washington. That includes the Congressional leadership, which seems impotent to stop President Obama in his Crusade to transform America. They do not understand why Congress will not use the power of the purse. Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have done a risk benefit calculus. They know that the media will blame the Republicans for a government “shutdown,” while they will gain little from it. Yet, they even convey defeat in their appearance. They had the solution in their hands. They could have passed individual spending bills, saving the most contentious items, such as Planned Parenthood, for a few bills at the end, daring President Obama to veto otherwise popular bills. They could have used budget reconciliation to force the President to veto bills, but they caved. And because they failed, three outsiders, Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Dr. Ben Carson, are currently leading in the polls with Senator Ted Cruz, an out-of-control firebrand, is right behind. None could govern if they won, shades of Arnold Schwarzenegger. John Boehner resigned because he failed to learn from Eric Cantor’s reelection defeat in 2014. He resigned because he failed. So did all the others.

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