Boehner’s uncomfortable pause

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sat down with Fox News’ Bret Baier yesterday to discuss, of course, the debt-ceiling crisis Republicans have created. There were a couple of noteworthy exchanges.

First, the Fox News host asked the Speaker for a head-count assessment.

BAIER: Straight up or down. How many votes you think you can you lose on your side to get a debt ceiling increase raised?

BOEHNER: It really depends on how the packages put together and how much members know about it. There’s no way you could make that prediction on any given set of assumptions at this point.

BAIER: You lost 59 in the continuing resolution. It seems like there’s more than that number opposed to it now.

BOEHNER: I would agree with that statement. There are a lot of members who just don’t believe that raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances.

This is one of the more important things Boehner has said all week. There are at least 60 House Republicans, and very likely more, who want to see the United States default. The significance of this goes beyond just head-shaking disgust at the extremism of today’s Republican Party, there’s also a practical angle — there are 240 Republican members of the House, and it takes a minimum of 218 votes to pass a bill.

Boehner surely knows, then, that any resolution to this matter will require a significant number of House Democrats. The Speaker doesn’t have to like it, but the arithmetic doesn’t lie.

Second, take a moment to watch this exchange, and pay particular attention to the length of the pause and the look on Boehner’s face.

Baier asked the Speaker what happens if there’s no deal Congress chooses not to raise the debt ceiling. Boehner just sat there for a few seconds, unsure what to say. Eventually, he shook his head and conceded, “I don’t know.”

The Speaker probably didn’t expect this process to unfold this way. He’s helped take the hostage, threatened to shoot the hostage, and assumed Democrats would pay the ransom.

But Dems want to compromise and Boehner’s caucus doesn’t. The Speaker doesn’t really want to shoot the hostage, but he neglected to craft a backup plan.

And now he just doesn’t know what to do.