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What kind of speaker will John Boehner be?


At this point, I'd say it's extremely likely that Republicans will win the House, and if they do that, it's similarly likely that John Boehner will become speaker. So what sort of speaker will he be? Paul Kane's interview with the Ohio Republican offers some clues. First, he's not the arm-twister that Nancy Pelosi is, or that Tom DeLay was:

His hands-off style has its critics among Republicans. Some believe he isn't a forceful enough presence to lead lawmakers where they are reluctant to go. In late September 2008, Boehner headed the effort to secure votes to pass the $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, something the Bush administration was pushing.

Privately, he told his colleagues that the legislation was a "crap sandwich," but they had to support it or the entire financial sector would implode. On Sept. 29, 2008, only a third of the GOP conference -- 65 Republicans -- supported Boehner as the legislation went down and the stock markets plummeted nearly 800 points.

Inside his office an hour later, Boehner, taking long drags on his ever-present Camel cigarettes (he is exempted from the Capitol's smoking ban while in his office), explained that it was almost impossible to pull off the vote. He stuttered over the words "break arms," saying it just wasn't something he could do.

Four days later, when the House voted again and approved the measure, Boehner couldn't get his closest friends, such as Latham and Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), to back the legislation.

Perhaps more to the point, he doesn't want to be remembered or seen as an arm-twister. He'd like to be seen as the leader who returned comity to the House of Representatives:

He insists he will be a very different kind of politician if the GOP wins Congress and he is elected speaker. He'll help bring the animosity between the two sides under control, he says, by allowing Democrats greater freedom to have their say on the floor of the House and letting them bring their proposals to a vote.

As it is now, the party in power routinely uses rules and procedural tricks to prevent the minority from offering bills and amendments. In retaliation, members of the minority use what few tools they have to obstruct the majority.

That's how it has been ever since the combative Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), once a mentor to Boehner, became House speaker in 1994, the last time the GOP retook Congress from the Democrats. After Gingrich, Republican leader Tom DeLay, known as the "Hammer," took this punitive style of leadership to the next level. And the current Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), has advanced a similar zero-sum approach to politics.

"A lot of scar tissue has been built up on both sides of the aisle," said Boehner, who says he would create an atmosphere in which Democrats wouldn't have to resort to the kind of tactics he has used against them.

"If there's a more open process, and members are allowed to participate, guess what? It lets the steam out of the place," he said in a speech last month at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

I don't look back at the last two years and think of Boehner as a real stickler for civility and bipartisanship, and it's hard to believe that he'll have an easier time of it when he's the only Republican with the power to block President Obama's initiatives and when his caucus is full of fire-breathing freshmen, but I guess we'll see.

Photo credit: By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post

By Ezra Klein  | October 27, 2010; 3:08 PM ET
Categories:  Congress  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Why we needed health-care reform, in one graph
Next: Divided government and deficits in one graph


I'm sorry to burst your bubble but I honestly don't see all these new Tea Baggers voting for John Baehnor for Speaker.

With all due respect I think they'd elect one of their own & give John some unimportant figurehead job.

Posted by: kindness1 | October 27, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

please fix the link in this story.

Posted by: js4981 | October 27, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

"He'll help bring the animosity between the two sides under control"
How many "Hell no you can't" tantrums will he need to do this?

Posted by: rpixley220 | October 27, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I vividly remember watching that September 29, 2008 vote. Nancy Pelosi took to the podium and unloaded on the Republicans whose arms had been twisted to make them eat the crap sandwich. Some of them decided to spit it out before swallowing. That incident was less an example of Boehner's lack of willingness to twist arms as it was reffirmation that Pelosi is not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 27, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of arm twisting. By how many votes did Obamacare pass the House, even with the big majority the Democrats had? If memory serves, it was by a single digit margin, wasn't it? I would imagine that between Republicans and the Blue Dogs, there might be all kinds of civility and bipartisanship. Lefties and progressives, not so much.

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 27, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

This is the guy who handed out corporate checks on the House floor, and now in a much nastier political environment he's claiming to be a pussycat? Pull the other one.

Posted by: paul314 | October 27, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

kindness1: You HAVE no due respect by calling anyone a tea bagger! John Boehner is one of our own, Tea PARTIERS. Just like a socialist to shout down anyone who believs in freedom.

Posted by: marbee | October 28, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse

When Boehner becomes the engine, the train will roll, and so will heads!

Posted by: marbee | October 28, 2010 1:07 AM | Report abuse

He will do what most other Republicans do....

He will try to cut taxes, he won't explain how we pay for them, he will blame others when the deficit shoots up, and he will get kicked out of Congress and blame the liberal media for it

Posted by: Bious | October 28, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

It matters not who is speaker.

If the GOP sweeps this, they will run the table in 2012. If they economy gets better, they take credit. If it stays bad they blame Obama's vetoes.

I think the economy will get worse. Once QE2 takes off and inflation goes insane in commodities (food), combined with the continuing deflationary spiral in housing, and negative real interest rates destroying savings, the average person is going to be almost ruined financially. Obama won't run in 2012.

Posted by: katorga | October 29, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

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