Right sees power grow with end of Boehner era


Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) surprise resignation is resetting the political dynamic in Washington and boosting conservative confidence.

In the short-term, Boehner’s decision to step down makes it unlikely there will be a government shutdown this week.

But in the medium- and long-term, it will almost certainly complicate life for President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

{mosads}Newly emboldened, the right is demanding significant concessions from Obama on raising the debt limit later this year and is dismissing calls from members of both parties to break spending caps for defense and non-defense programs.

Whoever replaces Boehner as Speaker will be under pressure from conservatives to toe a hard line in negotiations with Obama and Democrats. They will also expect the new Speaker to stand up to McConnell, whom many House conservatives would like to see follow Boehner in exiting Congress.

It was notable on Friday that as viewers called in to C-SPAN, it was frequently Democrats and liberals who were sad to see Boehner go and conservatives who said good riddance.

Democrats in both chambers say Boehner’s resignation has given them a sinking feeling ahead of the hard negotiations slated for later this fall.

“I’m afraid that it may make things much worse. John Boehner is a good and decent man. I’ve known him since he’s been in the Congress and he’s trying to do his very, very best,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told MSNBC.

The outside groups that constantly attacked Boehner immediately said they expect more from his successor.

“We have a reset. Now the challenge is will whoever takes John Boehner’s job understand that dynamic and be aggressive in trying to put forth conservative policy and fighting for that conservative policy,” said Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America.

No matter who is the next Speaker, he or she will face a difficult task in reaching deals with Obama on spending levels, the debt ceiling and a host of other issues.

Before Boehner’s announcement, some had faint hopes that a lame-duck president and Speaker might be able to work out a deal. Those hopes came crashing down on Friday.

“There’s a building sense among some in the administration and on the Hill that a bigger package could have been put together in a December, but now I don’t think anyone thinks that’s possible,” said Jim Manley, a former senior aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

If Congress is able to agree to a short-term spending bill this week, its next challenge may be reaching an agreement on a measure to keep the government operating through the next fiscal year.

Democrats want to lift the spending ceilings agreed to as part of a 2011 budget deal, and some Republicans are interested in a deal if it increases defense spending.

Holler, however, said conservatives would put heavy pressure on Boehner’s successor to not agree to any such deal.

“I would certainly think that as members are meeting with folks who are interested in having that job, that’s going to be one of the questions they ask,” Holler said of proposals to break the caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

Even something supported by many centrist Republicans, such as extending expiring tax provisions, could be thrown into jeopardy.

One conservative aide called the package of tax provisions “cronyism,” adding, “It’s not a good image, bailing out Wall Street at Main Street’s expense.”

The Export-Import Bank’s authority lapsed over the summer. Boehner was a supporter of the bank, but House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the favorite to succeed him, is not.

The GOP establishment has been troubled by Boehner’s rocky tenure in the House, and many elder Republicans said they are worried about the trend in their party.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) cheered Boehner’s demise at a Values Voter Summit Friday in Washington, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who, like Cruz, is running for president, said McConnell should be next.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday showed that 72 percent of Republican primary voters were unhappy with the leadership of Boehner and McConnell.

“There was nothing that was not conservative about John Boehner. If he’s deemed not conservative enough it’s pretty evident that the caucus that forced him out is drawing the whole Republican conference to a very marginalized position,” said former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).

The chief criticism of many Republican activists is that GOP leaders have been too yielding.

McConnell has taken heat from the right for pledging he will not allow another government shutdown or a default on the national debt, which some conservative strategists say undermines his leverage in negotiations with Democrats.

They want a harder-line approach before sitting down with Obama for a budget summit.

David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, another conservative group, said, “the next Speaker must be committed to strong economic conservatism that includes holding the line on sequestration spending caps and promoting pro-growth tax reform.”

Tags John Boehner Mitch McConnell Obama
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