Jan 2, 2013 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from The Hill: Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is signaling that at least one thing will change about his leadership during the 113th Congress: he’s telling Republicans he is done with private, one-on-one negotiations with President Obama.
During both 2011 and 2012, the Speaker spent weeks shuttling between the Capitol and the White House for meetings with the president in the hopes of striking a grand bargain on the deficit.
Those efforts ended in failure, leaving Boehner feeling burned by Obama and, at times, isolated within his conference.
In closed-door meetings since leaving the “fiscal cliff” talks two weeks ago, lawmakers and aides say the Speaker has indicated he is abandoning that approach for good and will return fully to the normal legislative process in 2013 — seeking to pass bills through the House that can then be adopted, amended or reconciled by the Senate.
“He is recommitting himself and the House to what we’ve done, which is working through regular order and letting the House work its will,” an aide to the Speaker told The Hill.
The shift could have immediate ramifications as Congress heads into its next showdown over raising the debt ceiling and replacing steep automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending that are now set to take effect in March. It will also impact other presidential priorities like immigration reform and gun control.
Republican lawmakers say they expect the House majority to draft and pass its own debt-ceiling proposal, which would then add pressure on the Democratic leadership in the Senate.
For Boehner in particular, it will be easier said than done.
The Speaker is ending his first term weaker than at any point during his two years with the gavel. He was unable to win enough Republican votes for his own fiscal-cliff fallback plan last month, and in the final hours of the 112th Congress, watched as more than half of his conference — including his two top lieutenants in leadership — voted against the Senate’s tax compromise. Earlier Tuesday, party leaders failed to garner enough GOP support to amend the Senate bill.
And on Wednesday, he faced withering criticism from Republican House members and Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) over his decision to scrap a vote on legislation providing relief to states damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Republicans in both the House and Senate are determined to confront Obama over the debt ceiling, despite the president’s repeated vows not to negotiate with Congress over increasing the nation’s borrowing authority.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a statement Wednesday making it clear that Republicans view the debt ceiling increase as an “immediate opportunity” to achieve significant spending cuts.
When Obama told Boehner in November that he wanted an increase in the debt ceiling as part of the fiscal-cliff package, the Speaker replied: “Things that you want in life tend to come with a cost.”
Boehner and his aides have said the Speaker remains committed to a principle he first articulated in 2011 — that any increase in the debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms that exceed the amount of new borrowing authority.
The Speaker is also expected to resist Obama’s push for another increase in taxes to offset the restoration of spending cuts from sequestration. “As far as we’re concerned, the tax issue is off the table,” the Boehner aide said.
Conservatives, however, are likely to want even more.
“I’m looking for dramatic and drastic spending reductions,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) said Wednesday.
The influential editorial page of The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday urged Boehner to “from now on cease all backdoor negotiations and pursue regular legislative order.” Linking to the article, a top adviser to Boehner posted on Twitter: “That’s the plan.”
Another aide cautioned that Boehner is not cutting off all contact with the president. “It doesn’t mean the Speaker isn’t going to meet with the president or talk to the president” when appropriate, the aide said.
Duncan said he was encouraged by Boehner’s commitment in recent days to return to “regular order,” saying it was imperative that the House not simply accept bills driven by Democrats in the White House and the Senate.
“We have a Republican majority. We need to pass Republican bills out of the House,” Duncan said.