Two-and-a-Half Years: A History of Speaker Bohener’s “Winning”


On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters there would be a “whale of a fight” over the debt ceiling this fall. Given the last two-and-a-half years of history, however, it’s clear that Speaker Bohener’s intimidating talking points rhetoric is just that – rhetoric. Here are a few examples:

In the 2010 “Pledge to America,” the soon-to-be Speaker said a Republican majority in the House would cut $100 billion from the federal budget. He verified this at CPAC in 2011. The final “cut,” only a couple of months later? $352 million.

The next great debate in Washington was over the debt ceiling in August 2011. The Speaker was totally unprepared with any kind of realistic plan, throwing together haphazard budget plans – including the fiscally impossible Cut, Cap, and Balance – before finally kowtowing to bi-partisan big spenders and passing the Budget Control Act. This Act, which created sequestration, doesn’t cut spending at all in the 10-year budget window it is in place for. All it does is slow growth.

Of course, the Speaker talked a big game. From May 2011:

In a speech before a Wall Street crowd on Monday, John Boehner laid out the three legs of the GOP’s opening bid on the debt ceiling. They are:

1) “Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase. And the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given. We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions.”

2) “They should be actual cuts and program reforms, not broad deficit or debt targets that punt the tough questions to the future.”

3) “With the exception of tax hikes — which will destroy jobs — everything is on the table. That includes honest conversations about how best to preserve Medicare.”

The Speaker then walked out of budget negotiations with the President in July 2011, giving further appearance of holding firm. Then, after the Senate shot down the tough-sounding Cut, Cap, and Balance, he wimped out, leaving America with the Budget Control Act, which doesn’t reduce the debt, doesn’t reform much of significance, is a “broad deficit…target,” and doesn’t do anything [DS1] to prevent Medicare’s Trust Fund from being exhausted.

In the 2012 fiscal cliff debate, the Speaker completely failed to reduce any spending. Taxes went up, sequestration was pushed off by two months, a one-year farm bill was instituted, and special interests received the usual tax breaks.

After the debt ceiling deal passed, this blog noted how, according to House leaders, the next big fight was to take place in May. Yet as Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) pointed out in July, the debt ceiling was quietly raised in May without a peep[DS2] .

After that it was the upcoming Continuing Resolution fight in September we were told to watch for. Now, with a month to spare, we’re being told again to brace for a debt ceiling battle.

It’s clear, based upon the Speaker’s history of Charlie Sheen-style “winning,” that a “whale of a fight” is not what Tea Party activists or big-spending Democrats should expect this fall.

You couldn’t lose better than this if you tried.