Future Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) is ready to “roll up [his] sleeves and go to work” in the wake of his Party’s recent midterm coup, according to his election night victory speech. He’ll have to navigate the following five obstacles if he wants to be successful.
5. The “Newt Gingrich” Effect
The Republican “Pledge to America” is a re-run from the Republican Revolution of 1994, when Speaker Gingrich called it the “Contract with America.” The Republicans overreached, however, and by the end of the decade, Gingrich was out. By 2006, so were the Republicans. If Boehner wants to succeed where Gingrich failed, he’ll have to resist the trappings of his newfound power.
4. Tea Party Republicans
The fury unleashed by the electorate, driven in part by the Tea Party, may have helped catapult Boehner to the Speaker’s chair, but it is a force that will be hard to control now that the election cycle has ended. The right wing is energized and emboldened. Boehner may want to moderate his Party’s approach in the upcoming 112th Congress in the interest of governance, but can he?
3. It’s STILL the Economy, Stupid
Buffeted by terrorism, two costly wars and a near economic collapse, the electorate is clearly turning to anyone who represents change – be it the Democrats in 2006, President Obama in 2008, or the incoming House Republicans. If the economy doesn’t improve soon, expect more sweeping changes in 2012.
2. The Senate
Roger Davidson and Walter Oleszek wrote that the founders wanted to make sure that the Senate was always “one step removed from popular voting to temper the House’s popular passions.” Although the 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of senators beginning in 1913, the Senate is still institutionally resistant to the emotional vicissitudes of the voting public due to term length and infrequent turnover.
With the Senate remaining in Democratic hands, the House will have to craft legislation that is acceptable to its sister chamber. Furthermore, it is highly improbable that either party will be able to muster a 60-seat majority in the Senate in the near future. Without 60 votes, a party can’t derail a potential filibuster via cloture. This amounts to an informal veto over House legislation.
1. Barack Obama
House Republicans underestimate the President’s strengths at their own peril. The President can check action by Congress through the veto, or act by executive order if necessary. Repeal Obamacare? Keep all the Bush tax cuts? That won’t pass muster with the Democratic Senate, let alone make it past the President’s desk. If John Boehner is to be an effective Speaker, he will have to practice what politics has always been; the art of the possible – and he’ll have to work with President Obama.
As an Ohioan, I’ve had the opportunity to follow John Boehner’s career with much interest. I may not always agree with his politics, but I know this: John Boehner is a smooth political operator – and the man knows how to broker a deal and compromise in the interest of governance.
Time.com appears to agree. In contrast with the Gingrich years, Boehner is promising a “humbler, more transparent” House. In turn, Boehner’s prospects may be more promising, as “humble” was rarely, if ever, in Gingrich’s vocabulary. In the end, if John Boehner wants to usher in a new era of Republican dominance in Congress, he will have to use all of his political savvy to keep the peace with his own ilk, compromise when necessary and find a way to help move the nation forward.
“John Boehner Victory Speech (Transcript).” EmptySuit
Roger H. Davidson and Walter J. Oleszek, “Congress and Its Members.” CQ Press
Jay Newton-Small, “(Over?) Learning the Lessons from Gingrich.” Time.com