Boehner Sidelined in Shutdown Fight

Monday, 14 Oct 2013 08:53 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Speaker of the House John Boehner appears to be on the sidelines in the final push to reach an agreement to re-open the government and avert a national default — reduced to checking in on negotiations he'd been steering for weeks.

Senate Republicans were stunned by Boehner’s inability to pass anything in the House, and angry at the political waffling that earmarked the impasse, the Washington Post reported.

And when the Ohio Republican conceded Saturday his high-stakes talks with President Obama had collapsed, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrested control.

Urgent: Should GOP Stick to Its Guns on Obamacare? Vote Here.

“This thing has gotten to the point of a real crisis for the country, and everybody keeps changing their position based on politics,” Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham groused after a huddle with McConnell and other Republicans, the Post reported.

Boehner's last-gasp effort came Thursday, when there were signals of support from his leadership for raising the debt ceiling for six weeks with just one condition: Obama would negotiate over a broader budget framework in the interim. Obama brushed aside the offer, saying it didn't address a government reopening.

On Monday, Boehner was entirely out of the loop — sidelined from an issue that had consumed Washington, and the entire nation, for weeks.

"The speaker went to see Sen. McConnell and get an update on the negotiations," Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, told the Wall Street Journal.

It's a stunning loss of influence from just two years ago, when Boehner won the negotiations battle during the 2011 debt-limit fight.

At that time, he was able to invoke his restive rank-and-file — including newcomer tea party-aligned members — as leverage in the standoff.

And as long as he convinced Obama there were enough people in his caucus who wouldn’t blink, he could wring concessions out of the White House, Time magazine noted.

But in the current default battle, Boehner's threat was less credible.

Just days before the speaker went on TV to talk about the threat of default, he reportedly confided to to fellow Republicans he'd never allow it.

Ironically, Boehner — after lashing out at suggestions there were winners and losers in the shutdown, bellowing "this isn't some damn game" — the speaker seems to be among the losers in the political game, at least in  the public eye.

Urgent: Should GOP Stick to Its Guns on Obamacare? Vote Here.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last Thursday showed the speaker with a withering negative rating: 42 percent of Americans have a negative view of him, while 17 percent hold a positive view, the lowest number since late 2010.

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