Speaker John Boehner
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)

How much worse can it get?

| The Republicans just can't help themselves. They tilt at windmills, and when the windmill wins, they end up worse off than they started.

Sisyphus, by Titian
Sisyphus, by Titian. Sisyphus had it easy. All he had to do was wrangle a rock up a mountain only to see it roll back down again. And again. And again. Forever.

Over and over again the crazy wing of the House Republican caucus sabotages John Boehner's feckless attempts to get something — anything at all — done.

Once the Republicans were in control of the Senate it was all supposed to change; the two houses of Congress would work together like a finely tuned machine, cranking out legislation to further their agenda. They would impose their will on the unlawful Obama by virtue of their united efforts.

But that's not how it's working out.

In the lame-duck session, both houses passed appropriations for the entire government so they could start with a clean slate when the new Congress took over in January. Except, that is, for the Department of Homeland Security. They funded DHS only until the end of February as a concession to the crazies who were determined to use that funding as leverage to make Obama back down on his immigration initiatives.

The Senate Republicans, unable to defeat Democrat filibusters, recognized reality when it hit them in the face and passed a "clean" funding bill without any extraneous provisions about immigration and sent it to the House. Boehner's House, however, refused to put the Senate bill on the floor for a vote. Instead, they decided to go for a three-week extension of current funding. This would delay and prolong the same fight, but it would at least get them off the hook for being responsible for shutting down DHS, created by the Republicans after 9/11! But when they took a vote, Boehner was handed a stunning defeat as dozens of hard-right Republicans voted against it.

With only hours left before funding ran out, they scrambled around and offered a one-week extension. That passed because Boehner was rescued by Democrats who voted for the measure in sufficient numbers to pass it after Nancy Pelosi told her caucus that there would be full funding before the end of the week.

Charlie Brown and Lucy
The Lucys among the House Republicans once again snatch the football from John "Charlie" Boehner

This is part of a continuing pattern wherein John Boehner thinks he has a deal but has to withdraw legislation at the last moment because he doesn't actually have the votes. Lost in the soap opera around DHS funding was the withdrawl of a bill to overhaul No Child Left Behind; it didn't have enough votes to pass either.

Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker she at least knew how to count votes!

These are just the latest in a string of failures as Boehner has shown himself incapable of leading his caucus. He was challenged for his election as Speaker and his latest debacle makes his future questionable. Frankly, I can't imagine why anybody would want to be leader of the Republicans.

The thing is, the burn-down-the-government House members never get punished for their stupidity and failure to accomplish anything. For the most part they come from deeply red districts with homogeneous constituencies. They probably get praised back home for standing up to the "dictator" Obama.

What makes this all so utterly stupid is that everyone knows how the movie is going to end. For the next week there will be fulminating and gnashing of teeth, but in the end Boehner will have to cave in and allow Democrats to help him pass funding for the rest of the fiscal year. Absolutely nothing has been accomplished by dragging it out another week. But Boehner is so scared of the rebels in his caucus that he postpones everything until he has to act so that he can say he has given everybody an opportunity to vent their spleen and try it their way. This is hardly a profile in courage.

The ideal of bipartisan legislation in the new Republican-ruled Congress is exposed as a chimera. We should set out sights lower. It's not even clear that bi-cameral legislation is a possibility.

Last updated on Apr 29, 2016

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