I assume we’ll find out sooner or later what on earth John Boehner and Eric Cantor were thinking in publicly casting about for some debt limit conditions–even if it involved the heresy of increased spending–that could attract a majority of House Republicans. But in any event, they appear to have thrown in the towel and are signalling they’ll move a “clean” debt limit measure and count on Democrats to pass it. So Boehner will once again abandon the “Hastert Rule” prohibiting action on measures not supported by a majority of Republicans, and every time he does that on major legislation, his grip on the gavel weakens.

And it could get even worse, per this assessment from Politico‘s Sherman and Bresnahan:

Senior GOP sources wonder if they’ll be able to get 18 House Republicans to vote for a debt ceiling increase — the bare minimum for passage if every Democrat votes yes.”


Boehner’s many defenders in the MSM will probably say he went through this doomed exercise in order to teach his troops a lesson, and/or to give conservatives every opportunity to come up with a workable debt limit formula. But when a party leader can’t be sure of getting 10% of his conference to back him on critical legislation, the “lesson” would seem to be that the leader just ain’t leading any more.

Aside from whatever this fiasco means for the tortured dynamics of the House Republican Conference, there’s one clear and very important implication for the country, as Brother Benen points out today:

As for the larger precedent, much of the Beltway suffers from poor memories, but I hope folks will remember this moment well – debt-ceiling crises are a thing of the past.

Perhaps when he’s back in Ohio in retirement sitting on his tanning bed and puffing on a cigarette, John Boehner will have that consolation.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.