John Boehner is known as the Speaker of the House who easily cries. Now, it seems that he’s got good reason to cry, as he may not hold his job much longer. You see, the Republican caucus is restless.
This past week Boehner was able to muscle a farm subsidies bill through Congress, but only after he agreed to ditch the 40-year linkage to the Food Stamps program that I wrote about in May.
Boehner has a small majority, with only 234 Republicans out of the 435 House members. But the majority is actually smaller than it looks – and it’s fractured. Tea Party Republicans, who make up about 50 members, are disheartened by Boehner’s continued attempts to work hand-in-glove with President Obama. And another 25 members of the Republican caucus are reliably willing to vote with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.
Not only that, but John Boehner is also surrounded by Republicans in his leadership team who are waiting in the wings, ready to take his job. One of them is Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, has been quoted by friends as being interested in the top job. With friends like these two, odds makers are beginning to count the days until a rebellion. One member privately told me, “None of us are too impressed with Boehner’s ability to negotiate with the White House. The tax deal at the end of last year left most of us with a bad taste in our mouth and mad constituents to mollify.”
He was, of course, referring to the fiscal cliff deal that forced many Republicans to support massive tax increases. And now these Boehner-pushed tax increases are partially to blame for 2013’s sluggish economy.
We Won’t Get Fooled Again
Boehner’s new farm bill will be opposed by the U.S. Senate because it failed to include additional money for EBT cards and free food for the working poor and disabled, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Originally, Boehner included SNAP (otherwise known as food stamps) in his first bill, but it failed to garner enough votes to pass.
Because it cut SNAP by more than $20 billion, most Democrats voted against the legislation. Tea Party-aligned Republicans believed it was still too expensive while the country has a staggering $17 trillion debt.
Additionally, many committee chairmen voted against the original bill, including Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce.
Faced with his initial failure, Boehner was able to corral more Republican votes by splitting the bill into two bills: one becoming an actual “farm” bill, and the other covering SNAP. Tea Party Republicans consider this an energizing chance to actually cut food stamps by even more than the $20.5 billion spread out over 10 years, as was proposed in the failed farm bill.
Let’s hope this division can withstand the forces of Washington. The two bills will head to what’s called a Conference Committee, so differences can be negotiated between the opposing sides.
In the final analysis, I predict the farm bill that comes back from conference will again contain the SNAP money. With the SNAP funding included, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will likely provide John Boehner with a lifeline in the form of votes to get it passed.
How long will Tea Party Republicans stand around watching John Boehner, their alleged leader, siding with Nancy Pelosi to get Obama-approved bills passed? That remains to be seen.
At the end of the day, food stamps, and the ugly agricultural funds flowing to the owners of big agribusiness operations will likely survive the battle, but a likely casualty could be the enabler of Obama’s agenda, John Boehner.
Your eyes on the Hill, Floyd G. Brown
This commentary was originally published at CapitalHillDaily.com and is re-published here with permission.
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