House speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted on (Sept. 25) that he was resigning in order to forestall a tough vote on his leadership and “protect the institution” of the House. Protecting the institution, he said, is a speaker’s primary job. We respect his devotion. But a speaker’s primary responsibility is to the nation, not the House. And what the nation needs is a Congress willing to make compromises in the national interest – compromises that Boehner may have favored but rarely had the stomach to promote.
From the start, Boehner seemed like a Republican leader for a different time, when serious policy could be hashed out in relative comity, over a drink and a smoke. The leadership challenge he was handed didn’t demand deal-making skills as much as it required creating the space for deal-making to happen in the first place. That, in turn, depended on sidelining an insurgent right wing that has made the House dangerously incapable of compromise on major policy questions, except in the most pressing of circumstances. Instead, Boehner ultimately decided to sideline himself.
It’s hard to know if someone else would have been – or will be – more effective managing a House with a bloc of Republicans who are more sensitive to the ideological preferences of their partisan districts than to the needs of the nation. What’s clear is that a loud faction in Boehner’s GOP caucus seems as hostile as ever to the process of governing in a democracy. The House will not deliver much until its leaders allow a simple majority – of Republicans and Democrats – to vote on budgeting, immigration and other crucial issues. Boehner was loath to call votes when he might need to rely on Democrats. The result was to hand the reins to the extremists.
This is excerpted from The Washington Post.