There are also increasing doubts about Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) ability — or willingness — to push his caucus to accept a spending level higher than the tea party wants in order to avoid a confrontation with the Senate and risking a shutdown.
Even if he were willing, it’s also not at all clear that enough House Republicans would vote with Boehner if he wanted to raise the spending level to deal with the Senate’s objections. In other words, pushing for an agreement with the Senate could cost the Speaker GOP votes in the House and he would have no guarantee that House Democrats would go along, as they did in 2011.
It could also cost Boehner his speakership. As his exceptionally hard-line speech from several months ago about not raising the debt ceiling again without dollar-for-dollar spending cuts — a tea party basic tenet if there ever was one — made clear, Boehner apparently feels as if he still has to prove his credentials to this group or live in fear of being challenged for Speaker next year.
That puts Boehner in a very tough political box. Compromising with the Senate might get a CR passed and avoid the government shutdown that could be devastating for Republicans on Election Day, but it might well put his speakership in serious jeopardy. Not compromising would reaffirm his tea-party-preferred street cred on spending but could precipitate the shutdown that, if the past is any guide, could cost his Members dearly on Election Day.
And, knowing all this, it’s hard to see how House Democrats will make it easier for Boehner by again agreeing to supply the votes to pass a CR.
In the past, this situation might have been avoidable by everyone agreeing to a short-term (as in six weeks or so) CR with a higher spending level than the tea party wants but with a Boehner assurance that the next CR will be at or below the GOP-preferred limit. But with many tea party folks feeling that many of last year’s spending-related promises by the leadership weren’t delivered, that type of deal might not be possible this time.
Stan Collender is a partner at Qorvis Communications and founder of the blog Capital Gains and Games. He is also the author of “The Guide to the Federal Budget.”