There’s no question who wanted to avoid a government shutdown the most: Barack Obama and John Boehner. And moments ago, Boehner scored another big win, keeping the government functioning through September by getting the spending deal agreed on last week passed through the House, despite defections on his right.
Dems are likely to spin the fact that House conservatives defected as a sign that Boehner has lost control of his caucus, and that the rebellion on his right is raging out of control.
In reality, this is another big win for Boehner, and shows once again that he’s well-equipped to lead the House GOP caucus. At least, for as long as they’ll have him.
Yes, 59 Republicans deserted him on the final vote, meaning that Democratic votes were used to put the measure over the top. However, it’s not at all clear that he didn’t have the votes, if needed; after all, with a final vote of 260-167, Boehner could have lost over forty more votes and still managed to pass the thing. Boehner may very well have released many of the 59 dissenters, allowing them to vote No in the knowledge that he could get the bill passed without them. We’ll never know how many of them would have been available if push came to shove — so their defections don’t mean that Boehner is losing control.
Make no mistake: this was a tough vote for both sides. Both liberals and conservatives were being asked to vote for spending levels far from what they campaigned on. For Republicans in particular, the fear that voting for the Continuing Resolution would make them vulnerable in future primaries was real, and probably realistic. That Boehner was ultimately able to get the thing done without needing their votes is a win for the GOP. For him, it’s not a sign of weakness.
In the longer run, Boehner’s job remains a very difficult one. Republican primary constituencies are likely to make demands that Members of the House just may not be able to keep, particularly on the debt ceiling and on the next budget fight. Speaker Boehner remains on a short leash from conservatives, but so far he’s proven he has the skills to handle it. It’s a good day for the Speaker.