House speaker candidate talks basics: highways, agencies

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks in Washington, Monday, September 28, 2015.


This past Sunday on CBS’ “Face The Nation” Boehner was asked if his critics on the right were unrealistic? Norm Ornstein argued that for a legislator such as Boehner, the position had become increasingly unappealing.

Speaker Boehner yet has a great opportunity to go out on a very high note.

The analysis of Chait, Ornstein, and Ralston likely will stand the test of time, though it’s always worth expressing a degree of caution on this front. Francis compared Congress’ work with that of Moses, symbolizing “the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation”.

All in all, Boehner was an effective manager, and ranks among the best of the modern speakers. I’ve never seen a resigning politician look so visibly relieved, so completely at peace – he literally sang a bar from “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”. No speaker can avoid dealing with the opposition party, with Senate leaders and with the occupant of the White House.

The intraparty fighting is part of a long-running battle between conservative Tea Party groups and the GOP establishment, which have sparred since the 2010 elections over tactics and strategy. We have the largest Republican Majority since the days of Calvin Coolidge. Only five years later, these districts (and others demographically like them) are safely Republican. Prior to that, he was the House majority whip. In morning TV interviews and at a GOP leadership news conference, he spoke of uniting House Republicans with “a new culture” that listens to all voices and yet has “the courage to lead in the end”.

In his letter to colleagues, McCarthy referred to those relationships: “You all know me”.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Twp., was one of Boehner’s rare enemies who actually followed Ronald Reagan’s 11 commandment not to speak ill of another Republican.

The next speaker of the House of Representatives is unlikely to be any more sympathetic to the faction of anti-government Republicans that hastened John Boehner’s demise by angling to overthrow him. Not so Boehner’s response. Such a formal challenge against a speaker has not been used in the House for over 100 years.

While the House previously had intervened in court cases, it generally had done so only to protect its institutional interests, not simply because it disagreed with the executive’s interpretation of a law.

Even by John Boehner’s usual standard of lachrymosity, Thursday was a gusher.

With backlash from the right growing, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, took to the floor Monday afternoon to defend his chamber against charges that it hasn’t fulfilled its promises to voters.

“With a Democratic president and sufficient Democratic support in both chambers to sustain vetoes, working with Democrats will remain the only sustainable path to moving our country through the Republican calendar of chaos that lies before Congress this fall”, Hammill said. “(As with the DOMA defense, the Senate did not join the lawsuit.) In early September, Judge Rosemary Collyer gave Boehner a partial victory, ruling that the lawsuit could proceed, since if the Speaker’s argument was correct, then the House has been injured in a concrete and particular way that is traceable to the Secretaries [of Health and Treasury] and remediable in court”.


On Friday, an upbeat Boehner declared that he’d chose to spare the House, and himself, the chaos such a vote would bring. It’s as close to going out on top that Boehner could ever hope to come. Regardless of the merits of the critiques, Boehner’s move unquestionably enhanced the stature of the House on global affairs. The Republican leader faced the likelihood of an attempted coup – whether or not the rebellion would have succeeded is an open question – but by quitting, Boehner finally has a few agency over how his career ends, if nothing else. He is the author of numerous books and articles on USA foreign relations and politics, including All the Way with LBJ: The 1964 Presidential Campaign and Congress and the Cold War.

Speaker of the House John Boehner