Real Leadership from Boehner

It isn’t an easy thing to cut a deal when you are the House minority leader.

The temptation is to oppose everything, because, well, you are in the minority, and it is the majority’s job to get things done.

That certainly was the position taken by Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) when she was minority leader. I can’t think of one thing she worked on with the Republican majority. She wouldn’t even sign on to amicus briefs on issues of institutional concern, because she was a partisan first, and an institutionalist second.

A perfect example of her partisanship came with the prescription drug legislation that gave seniors access to life-saving drugs through Medicare for the first time in history. She pulled out all the stops to kill that legislation, and then threatened to repeal it when it became law.

John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been a different kind of minority leader, partially because of his temperament and partially because of the situation he is in with the Bush White House. But that doesn’t make his job any easier. And cutting deals on any issue is fraught with peril. It requires real leadership.

Boehner cut a deal on the emergency supplemental, and some will probably criticize him for the deal he got. But Boehner saw the big picture, and the big picture is that we need to get funding to our troops. He got the best deal possible on an unemployment insurance extension, knowing that vulnerable Republicans couldn’t defend repeated votes on the issue. But Boehner also knew that the Democrats were in a real pickle because the Blue Dogs were doing their best to distinguish themselves from their liberal leadership, giving the minority leader real leverage.

This is a victory for the White House, for the war effort and for our troops. It is also a victory for John Boehner. Boehner is leading through extraordinarily tough times for the House Republicans. Chaos is usually the friend of the minority, but actually for House Republicans, the worse things get, the more they get blamed. That is because people are blaming George Bush (and by extension all Republicans) for most of the ills befalling the nation. The only exception to this is gas prices, where liberal Democrats are very vulnerable. Boehner has correctly poured all his rhetorical fire on that issue. But he also correctly moved to cut a deal on the supplemental, helping the president and the Pentagon get the resources they need to win the war.

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