John Boehner is in an absolutely no win scenario; no matter what happens in the coming weeks, he WILL lose his Speakership. Let me examine the possible scenarios and look at why this is going to happen. The Tea Party, and the magical thinking crowd are driving the bus, and they want no compromise. For his part, Boehner thinks that going along with them will preserve his station as Speaker of the House, so he is refusing to buck them.
Of course, this entire post is predicated on Boehner's pride, and desire to retain his Speakership. There are other possibilities: his family is being held hostage, and he has been informed that if he refuses to play along, they will be killed; he has a REALLY nasty skeleton in his closet that they are using to blackmail him with; or they have some sort of equally horrendous thing that they are holding over his head to get him to do what they want. There is another possibility, that he is actually crazy himself, but I tend to discount this, because, as bad as he is at his job, he has still seemed fairly rational, and not ridiculously hyper-partisan.
So to look at how this could all play out:
Scenario 1: They blow up the Debt Ceiling and it is as bad or worse than the experts believe it will be. At the moment, this is unfortunately the most likely scenario to happen. (And I hate to say that, but the rhetoric on the Right seems to really want this to happen)
In this case, there are two further possibilities. First, we are plunged into a world wide Great Depression that will make the one in '29 look mild. In this case, everyone in leadership will be expelled from Congress in the next election. We might even have recalls for the senators not up next election, and maybe even an impeachment. (Not that I think it would be Obama's fault, I'm just saying how we would likely react to this.) In this case, Boehner is out in '14.
The second possibility here is even worse, that the Debt Ceiling Breach actually spurs a revolution, rebellion or national breakup. This could happen quite easily as well, because if the country can't pay the military forces, we are headed to implosion. We saw this happen in the
Union, (albeit for a
somewhat different reason) and there is no reason it can't happen here as
well. In this case, no one is Speaker,
but most notably, John Boehner isn't.
Scenario #2: We breach the Debt Ceiling, and it isn't the end of the world. Although this is highly unlikely, if we patch it fast enough, perhaps we wouldn't spark another Depression. Still, the breach would, regardless, spur high interest rates, and likely high inflation as well, because the value of the dollar would fall.
This is a scenario we have seen in the past, during the 70's with Stagflation. In that case, President Carter, and a lot of other Democrats, paid the price for the country's financial woes. This time, the blame would be placed firmly at Boehner's feet, and trust me, the discredited Republican Party would throw him under the bus to save themselves. They would claim it was all Boehner's idea, and he is at fault for the mess. Again, Boehner is no longer Speaker, and he also get Tarred and Feathered by his (former) compatriots.
Scenario #3: Boehner capitulates and allows for a clean debt ceiling vote. This is also a possibility, although one that I put at less than 50% right now.
In this case, Boehner is excoriated by the Far Right and the Rightwing media as a traitor to the cause and country. He will be primaried by a Tea Party candidate who will likely win the primary, and then possibly lose the General. We have seen this happen time and again. Although the Tea Party can motivate enough people to win a Primary, they tend to do poorly in a general election, unless the district or state is an utter conservative stronghold like
mainstream Republicans are not likely to vote for crazy, especially after going
through this shutdown. They will very
likely quietly vote for the Democrat, and move on with their lives. Utah
This scenario will likely ripple across the country, destroying any moderate, or sane conservative Republican who votes on a clean CR and Debt Limit. This actually will lead to an additionally difficult problem, because most of the Republicans who will be left in Congress after this are likely to be as crazy as Yoho and Cruz, so we will have one functioning party, and a group of people howling in the wilderness.
And as before, Boehner does not return to the House. And further, Nancy Pelosi likely returns to the Speaker's chair.
Scenario #4: Obama and the Democrats capitulate and give in to Republican demands. Unfortunately, this is also a high likelihood, given the past performance of the Democrats.
This scenario would seem to be a win for Boehner, and the way to preserve his job, but that is doubtful, because several other things would play out in this scenario.
First, it would galvanize the Republicans, who would be seen by both their constituents, and the media, as being at the height of their power. Second it would demoralize the Democrats, who might even sit out the next election. Regardless, it would greatly strengthen the hand of the Republicans going into the next election, and they would see it as vindication of their agenda.
This means they would probably run more Tea Party candidates, because the Far Right would be empowered. Even if the Democrats were pushed to fight to win back the house, the media narrative would be against them, just as it was in 2010. In this scenario, Boehner might be Primaried, but he would certainly be challenged for the Speakership by a Tea Party type, because they were at the seeming apex of their power. And given that Boehner is not popular, even in his own party, he would likely lose to his challenger.
So no matter what, Boehner is highly unlikely to keep his position, therefore, out of love of country, he should let it come to a vote.
The problem with this entire situation is, when you hold the government hostage, like the Republicans are doing, and then the other side capitulates, like Obama might, you set the stage for this to become common practice. This time, Obama gives in on the ACA, next time, what will it be, a complete ban on abortion? An end to Welfare? Defunding of the Department of Education? Once you open the door to these types of threats, there is no closing it. And it won't matter who the party in the driver's seat is. You could have a Republican President and Senate, and a Democratic House blowing it up unless they put into place a single payer health care system.
And even worse, once the bullet is in the chamber, it will eventually be fired. If not this time, then in the future. The demands become ever more extreme, and sooner or later, the bomb will be dropped.
We saw this with the hijackings of the '70's. As much as it pains me to say this, if they had attacked the first hijacked plane, and risked the lives of everyone to end the hostage situation, it is unlikely that there would have been any more hijackings, because the technique would not have been viable.
The same thing here, if this hijacking of democracy succeeds, expect it to become a regular occurrence. If it fails, it is unlikely that we will see it again.
If Boehner actually cares about democracy more than he care about a position that he will not hold on to in any case, he needs to allow a vote.
Unless, of course, they actually are holding his family hostage. Then at least his behavior might make sense. Otherwise, it doesn't.