Ouch. House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE (R-Ohio) has a hideous job on any day, trying to keep his fractured conference together, but yesterday was one for the history books. In conceding on the payroll tax extension package the Senate had passed and his conference had opposed all week, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE made clear he had fought for fighting's sake, and that doing the right thing isn't always easy — which he reiterated several times. But it was clear he knew his conference has reached the point of diminishing returns with their lonely, losing payroll tax cut battle.

There are indications that tensions arose between House GOP leaders over this fight, and that Boehner should have known last Friday, when the two-month payroll tax cut extension was first introduced behind closed doors, that it would present problems for his conservative members. Yet Boehner allowed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE (R-Ky.), with whom he works quite closely and has known for many years, to believe that passing a bipartisan bill and leaving town was fine. He was bucked by his members on Saturday, then chose to stick by them as they walked off a political cliff.

Yesterday he made clear, without House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorEric Cantor: Moore ‘deserves to lose’ If we want to make immigration great again, let's make it bipartisan Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns MORE (R-Va.) or House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) at his side, that he had called off this fruitless fight — putting down the foot he had held back all week. Boehner has always used a light hand with this restive new Tea Party-backed freshman class and the senior conservatives who join them on most votes. He has allowed many votes to fail so he could show them, rather than tell them, that they don't have the votes to get what they want. Until the House GOP members collectively accept this reality, they are at risk of future fumbles like this one.

This mess returns in January, a New Year’s legislative hangover. The truth is no one had found agreement for a 12-month extension of the payroll tax cut and that tricky task awaits the two parties in days. In 2012, Boehner will try to lead his conference, as they head toward the election in November, toward a record of governing instead of brinksmanship. 

Will they follow him?

   

WHO WILL BE THE IOWA SURPRISE? Happy new year from Ask A.B. We will see you on Thursday, Jan. 5.