Power Play

Boehner Stakes Speakership on his New Years Resolution

Electing Speaker of the House, how 'fiscal cliff' bill affects your paycheck and is the White House really cutting spending?


“I look forward to working with every single member of Congress to meet this obligation in the New Year.”

-- President Obama in remarks after the passage of “fiscal cliff” legislation on Tuesday, calling on Republicans to compromise their stances on global warming, illegal immigration and gun control.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other Northeastern Republicans are furious at their fellow GOPers in the House for not swiftly putting through a pork-laden Senate bill that began as a Hurricane Sandy emergency relief package and ended up as a $60 billion monument to congressional logrolling.

The legislation was packed with lardoons of federal spending of the old style. There was $150 million for fisheries in Mississippi and Alaska, $4 million for the Kennedy Space Center and $8 million for new cars for federal agencies.

In the days before perennial $1 trillion deficits, that’s how legislation was passed. Find something unobjectionable like sending aid to suffering hurricane victims and then turn it into a galleria of special-interest shopping. And, as was the case in the salad days of Washington spending, it was financed with deficit spending.

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After all, the “fiscal cliff” legislation that Republicans allowed to sail through on Democratic votes was marbled with special interest fat, mostly in the form of $76 billion in tax credits for well-connected industries like movie studios and green-energy companies.

The inferred question from Christie and Rep. Pete King: If House Speaker John Boehner would allow Hollywood lobbyist Chris Dodd to get his goodies for the sake of a tax bill, why not let commercial fisheries and General Motors get a little taste for the sake of alleviating real human suffering in New York and New Jersey?

The Republican-controlled House has been a real buzzkill in the past couple of years when it comes to this kind of old school spending. House Republicans got elected in 2010 on a wave of anger about President Obama’s health law -- not just what was in it, but the shoddy, hurried fashion in which it was created.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s famous argument in defense of the unpopular bill, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it,” was the rallying cry for insurgent conservatives. That led to promises about good government, bills being posted for three days and actually reading legislation.

That all went out the window when it came to the year-end legislation crafted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden. Boehner and company abandoned those promises of reform in favor of letting the tax bill sail through on Democratic votes.


Conservatives are furious. Not only did Obama win in a rout, but it happened just the way it did during the Pelosi-era House: late at night and in a hurry. Conservative groups are demanding Boehner’s scalp and want to see today’s voting for speaker in the House turn into a revolt.

But if you want to know why Boehner is likely to hold on as House speaker in today’s votes, look no farther than the Sandy legislation. Boehner was willing to suffer the rages of Christie, King and others in order to send the message to his members that the “fiscal cliff” fiasco was a one-shot deal, not the new normal.

Republican House members tell Power Play that while they are not happy about the way the tax legislation worked out and fault Boehner sharply for even trying to reach a “grand bargain” with Obama, Sandy showed that Boehner did not want to make a habit of it.

After a New Year’s blowout, House Republicans are ready to get back to regular order – to get back on their diet and start hitting the treadmill.

Boehner has made it clear to his conference that there will be no more one-on-one negotiating with Obama about big deals and no more Democratic-majority bills allowed to slip through the House. The speaker asked his members for amnesty to avoid an across-the-board income tax hike and offered to put his own reputation on the line to get it.

Obama made Boehner’s job as difficult as possible on the tax extension. The president made increasingly audacious demands, was ideologically inflexible on the question of rates versus loopholes and then taunted the very House Republicans Boehner was trying to get on board with the deal.

Obama got his spending increases and his tax hike, but the result is that Boehner had to promise his members that there would be no more shuttle diplomacy in which he tries to bridge the gap between the president and the House majority. Henceforth, Boehner says he will speak for the House, not to it.

If House Republicans are ready to shut down the government over federal borrowing or the expiry of the current spending law passed in lieu of a budget, Boehner’s not going to team up with Democrats to try to stop them.

The speaker showed with his Sandy spike that he was ready to get back to business as usual, even if it means taking heat from Christie, et al.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“There is the process, which is insane.  Just 20 years ago this was sort of, this would have been a huge bill.  The idea it should be passed in the middle of the night with no debate or regular order simply because people from one part of the country are demanding it I think is insane.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at  http:live.foxnews.com.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.