Fear and loathing in the House GOP

House Speaker John Boehner (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
House Speaker John Boehner (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Just five days ago, I wrote about how the nation is literally and figuratively “cracking up over the GOP.” The dysfunction in the Republican Party has Democrats laughing and the nation grinding to a legislative halt because nothing can get done. But what’s happening in the House of Representatives is breathtaking, according to an eye-opening story by The Post’s Paul Kane.

House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy are living in fear for their legislative lives. The “breaking point” was January’s vote on the fiscal cliff deal, which Boehner voted for while Cantor and McCarthy joined more than 60 percent of the House GOP caucus voting against. And Kane gives you a flavor of the fresh hell the Republican leadership faces with its cantankerous caucus.

Barely 36 hours after the caustic New Year’s Day vote, Boehner faced a coup attempt from a clutch of renegade conservatives. The cabal quickly fell apart when several Republicans, after a night of prayer, said God told them to spare the speaker. …

This is the price of remaining in charge in today’s House: Boehner must always appear to be working from the bottom up, never seeming to impose his will. “Gone are the days when the leaders decide what the conference is gonna do,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Kan.), a third-term lawmaker who recently joined the GOP leadership. …

Some conservatives are talking about circulating a petition to impose an internal rule forbidding Boehner from advancing legislation that does not have majority support in the Republican Conference, a restriction that would have torpedoed the fiscal cliff bill. …

To veteran Republicans and former lawmakers, the three were too tolerant of the younger generation from the outset. The freshmen rebelled against proposed 2011 budget cuts because they didn’t match the GOP campaign platform — a document almost none of them had endorsed. Leaders bowed to the new class and rewrote the legislation. …

Although most items have sailed to passage — only to face certain death in the Senate — Cantor received an uncomfortable reminder in late April of his caucus’s fickle nature and McCarthy again fought allegations that he is too soft as whip.

A few dozen Republicans opposed the modest Helping Sick Americans legislation because they said it came from nowhere. Instead, Cantor pulled the bill and held another vote to repeal Obamacare — their 37th attempt to repeal part or all of the landmark health-care law — to appease conservatives.

In a March op-ed in The Post, Boehner lauded President Obama’s efforts to reach out to congressional Republicans. But he also demanded the president “[shift] the focus from charm to courage, and eventually action.” How I wish Boehner could follow his own advice — but his caucus won’t let him.

Follow Jonathan Capehart on Twitter.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.
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Ed Rogers | June 3, 2013