Give Boehner a break: GOP Speaker brings real leadership to 114th Congress


FILE — Jan. 13, 2015: House Speaker John Boehner (AP)

Some crank apparently has it in for John Boehner. No, I’m not talking about Ted Yoho; rather, the bartender who supposedly threatened to poison the House Speaker’s drinks – a low blow. Seems like there’s no end of folks eager to attack the GOP leader.

Only Republicans could celebrate one of the great moments in the party’s history by falling on each other like cats in a laundry bag. Weeks after securing one of the GOP’s most convincing electoral sweeps, Tea Partiers in the House, egged on by the likes of Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh, decided to humiliate Speaker John Boehner by rallying to elect one of their own.

They failed, but in the process they gave wounded Democrats ample fodder for ridicule. They also steered the narrative away from the popular programs mainstream Republicans hope to pursue and that Americans hunger for.

The GOP cannot become complacent.

The pundit chorus should stand down. While they were sniping over his tactics, the New York Times reports that Boehner participated in some 150 campaign events during 2014, raised $102 million — and transferred $23 million from his own political action committee to the National Republican Campaign Committee. That GOP majority that conservatives accuse Boehner of squandering — he helped build it.

It is easy to dismiss the mini-rebellion in the House as idiotic; two representatives cast votes for sitting senators, for heaven’s sake. And the very basis of the uprising is risible. Before becoming speaker, Boehner had one of the most conservative voting records in the House. ;

Florida Rep. Daniel Webster, who came closest to ousting the speaker (which is to say, not very close), is considered a moderate by most of the organizations that rate such things. For instance, the Heritage Foundation gives him a 56 percent score — lower than the 61 percent rating accorded the average House member. ;Still, the dissension was embarrassing.

Boehner does not deserve this public rebuke. Just as liberals have been frustrated by what they perceive as Obama’s shortcomings — that he has not enacted a climate bill, or broad immigration reform, legislation virtually impossible to secure from a split Congress — Boehner is unfairly held responsible for not blocking the president’s executive actions. As head of one arm of a fractured government, the speaker’s power was limited.

Over the past several years, Boehner has mollified the right by allowing more than 50 votes to repeal ObamaCare, a symbolic undertaking that most of the country rightly views as a waste of time. ;

More constructively, he has encouraged passage of numerous job-creating bills, which were doomed from the start, and has also presided over several investigations of the Obama administration, including the Benghazi tragedy and IRS scandal. More to the point, since 2011, he has presided over a rare decline in federal spending. ; ;

Most recently, the far right is furious over Boehner’s endorsement of the Cromnibus. The rebellious group in the House wanted Boehner to stall passage of the government’s omnibus funding bill — shut down the government — in retaliation for Obama’s amnesty measure. As usual, they never articulated how this would help the GOP, or the country. And, by the way, the dissidents were not even united on this approach; Florida Rep. Ted Yoho, one of the right’s ringleaders, actually voted for the Cromnibus.

Conservatives are right to be angry about Obama’s moves to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. They are correct that his move breaches the boundaries of his authority. But shutting down the government, a move that was costly to Republicans in 2013, was not the right approach. ;

Some on the right dispute that, arguing that the GOP’s extraordinary sweep in the midterm elections proves that the 2013 shutdown failed to harm the brand. They are wrong; it took an unbelievable cascade of disasters emanating from the White House to turn around GOP fortunes. ;

Scandals involving the Veterans Administration, the IRS, Benghazi, the release of Bowe Bergdahl, the surge of migrant children responding to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the missteps on handling the Ebola crisis, the continuing bad news of ObamaCare, the fumbling over Syria and ISIS, revelations about U.S. eavesdropping on U.S. citizens (and Angela Merkel), the lame response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea — the list goes on and on. Republicans pushed to make the election a referendum on Obama’s competence, and the lopsided outcome showed that to be a successful strategy.

Polling after the 2013 GOP-led government shutdown showed that 80 percent of Americans — 8 in 10 — opposed the move. And, not just Democrats were teed off. Two-thirds of Republicans and independents who lean right disapproved of the gesture. Because that’s what it was — a futile gesture. ;

A large majority of Americans considered the shutdown harmful to the economy and to our international image, and they were right. ;

Having U.S. credit downgraded over political uncertainty summed up the damage. Worst of all — throughout the fracas, President Obama’s approval ratings were untouched, while approval of Republicans sank to an all-time low of 32 percent; 63 percent of the country held an unfavorable view of the party. It doesn’t get much worse than that. ;

Today, Americans want Republicans to work with President Obama and Democrats to move the country forward. There are areas of common ground, like tax reform, trade treaties and infrastructure investment. ;

The GOP cannot become complacent. ;

President Obama’s approval ratings are inching higher, and the economy has been picking up steam. Moreover, a recent poll found an unprecedented number of Americans — 43 percent — identifying themselves as independents. ;

Another survey showed that 50 percent of millennials consider themselves independents, an unheard-of desertion of our political parties. ;Those votes, come 2016, are up for grabs.

Boehner and the House are hard at work fulfilling promises to voters; measures to amend the ObamaCare 30-hour work week rule, push forward the Keystone XL Pipeline and block spending for Obama’s immigration amnesty are in the works. ;

My guess? He’s just getting started.

Liz Peek is a writer who contributes frequently to She is a financial columnist who also writes for The Fiscal Times. For more visit Follow her on Twitter@LizPeek.