Boehner’s Bad Week

Speaker John Boehner is having one of those weeks that try the souls of even the best spin-meisters. He’s already having trouble keeping his fractious caucus on board as he struggles to complete a deal that removes his own leverage over Democrats by enacting this year’s “must-pass” legislation as a package. And now he’s having to yank a big transportation bill out of the hopper because nobody much likes it, as The Hill‘s Keith Lainge and Russell Berman report:

Democrats have called on Boehner to scrap the entire transportation bill, which has come under fire from the right for spending more than revenue that the federal gas tax brings in and the left for cutting funding for public transit, pedestrian and bicyclist projects. The Speaker could count on few Democratic votes in the House, and President Obama threatened to veto the bill if it passes.

Another complication for the Speaker arose on Tuesday night, when negotiators on the payroll tax extension agreed to use a federal pension reform to pay for extending unemployment insurance benefits and a fix to the Medicare reimbursement rate. The change partially overlaps with an offset in the highway bill, so Republicans must find another provision to ensure the highway legislation is fully paid for.

But in the best tradition of weak leaders putting a brave face on things and pretending to get in front of the parade marching away from his direction, here’s how Boehner described his forced decision to yank the bill:

“Given the volume of amendments and the need for a full, fair, open and transparent process, we may not finish energy/infrastructure this week,” Boehner told his conference, according to a source in the room. “If we need more time to debate and consider amendments, that’s perfectly fine with me. It’s more important that we do it right than that we do it fast.”

Yep, it’s all “perfectly fine” with Boehner.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.