Boehner floats a new spending target?

BOEHNER FLOATS A NEW SPENDING TARGET?…. As of last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was privately in agreement with Democrats on a target for spending cuts: $33 billion. It’s a total slightly larger than the one he’d proposed in February, and by some measures, would be the largest one-time spending-cut package in American history.

Yesterday, the Speaker reversed course, saying the total he already agreed to is “not enough.”

So, what would Boehner prefer? Politico appears to be the only outlet running this figure this afternoon, but it’s reporting that the House GOP leader has a new figure in mind.

President Barack Obama warned Tuesday that he would not sign another stop gap spending absent an agreement this week on the 2011 budget, even as Republicans upped the ante, signaling that a $40 billion package of cuts might be the making of a deal.

Republican and Democratic officials confirmed that Speaker John Boehner raised the $40 billion number or $7 billion above the target now being used in negotiations.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this figure. Roll Call had this report back on Saturday:

Boehner, Senate Democrats and the White House are zeroing in on $33 billion in spending cuts. But the Ohio Republican is finding significant resistance from his top lieutenants, who have repeatedly warned they cannot sell that number to rank-and-file Members, insisting on at least $40 billion in cuts.

Assuming all of this reporting is accurate — and admittedly, it may not be — the Speaker’s leadership team told him he had to reach $40 billion, and so today, that’s the number he’s apparently using.

If so, keep a few things in mind. First, Boehner is an embarrassingly weak House Speaker, serving less as a leader than as a message boy for his right-wing caucus. I don’t know if there’s ever been a Speaker with less control and influence in his own chamber.

Second, if House Republicans are seriously prepared to shut down the federal government over $7 billion, they’re hopelessly insane.

And third, in case there’s a temptation to think, “Oh hell, if giving them $7 billion more will end this mess, Dems should just give them what they want,” remember, this process doesn’t really work that way. If Dems give in, go beyond the agreed-upon $33 billion, and accept $4-0 billion, there’s a very real possibility Republicans will say, “Now that you mention it, I’m afraid we can’t go below $45 billion.”

Boehner has a very good deal sitting on the table. Turning it down — and shutting down the government — because his caucus is a little too ridiculous should make the Speaker little more than a national embarrassment.