Van Hollen concerned Boehner is 'stringing' talks along to save his job

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Wednesday accused Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) of dragging his feet on a deficit-reduction deal in order to save his job.

Van Hollen told reporters that he is worried Boehner is trying to hold off on compromising until he is officially elected as Speaker by the full House on Jan. 3.

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“I think the biggest impediment right now is the Speaker’s ability to get a decent number of Republican votes for a deal,” Van Hollen said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast

He said that Boehner appears worried that he cannot get a majority of his majority on board. Failure to do that would violate a rule used by former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

"I'm getting increasingly concerned that one of the reasons the Speaker is deciding to, I think, string out these discussions is that he wants to wait til Jan. 3 when the election for Speaker takes place, and he's concerned that any agreement he reaches, if it violated the so-called Hastert Rule, could undermine support for him in his caucus and make it more difficult on Jan. 3," Van Hollen said. 

“I hope he wouldn’t avoid the tough decisions to take us to Jan. 3, but I’ve become increasingly worried that that’s exactly what’s going on,” he said. 

Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said a compromise could still be found this month that replaces scheduled tax cuts and spending cuts with a new plan to reduce the deficit. 

Boehner has this week been accusing President Obama of “slow-walking” negotiations in order to pressure Republicans to pass an extension of middle-class tax rates while allowing other tax rates to increase. He has demanded Obama put more detailed spending cuts on the table to move the fiscal talks forward. 

At this point, Boehner appears to have the votes of all but a few disgruntled conservatives ahead his Jan. 3 reelection bid. The same day, most Democrats will formally vote for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to be the Speaker, and Republicans are expected to provide the votes to keep Boehner in office. 

On Wednesday, Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) made clear that he still supports Boehner as Speaker, despite Boehner’s recent move to take four rebellious conservatives off powerful committees. Other conservatives speaking at a roundtable for reporters backed him on this, including Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho). 

Reps. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) were taken off Financial Services, while Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) was removed from the Budget and Agriculture committees. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) also was booted off of Budget.

Huelskamp and Amash indicated Thursday that they could vote against Boehner.

“What we need is leaders on both sides and we don’t have that right now,” Amash said. “We are not doing the best job we can do.”

Labrador said that the fight between the four was between leadership and those four alone, while Jordan said he was working to reverse the “not helpful” moves by Boehner.