Speaker John Boehner (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images) House Speaker John Boehner (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The nonsense engulfing Capitol Hill over the government shutdown now, and soon over the economic shutdown if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, could be solved if Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) allowed bills to come to the floor that would pass with the votes of Democrats. And all that’s required is for him to choose between his caucus and our country.

After reading Ezra Klein’s interview with Robert Costa of the National Review, my hopes that Boehner would ultimately put country first were diminished.

“Ever since Plan B failed on the fiscal cliff in January and you saw Boehner in near tears in front of his conference, he’s been crippled,” Costa said. Crippled to the point that Boehner has been called Speaker in Name Only or simply “Spokesman.” There is an upside for Boehner to his sad and politically weak state. None of the obvious replacements want the speakership. But as Costa pointed out, this makes Boehner a captive of the vocal minority running roughshod over the Republican House majority.

I don’t think Boehner is seriously threatened. He won’t be threatened so long as he goes along with conservatives in the House. He listens to them. He follows their advice. He’s often led by them. And as long as that’s true, how will there ever be a coup attempt? Boehner got so burned by the fiscal cliff that he’s been defanged. There’s no talk now about mounting a coup against him because he never goes against the right.

When Klein asked why Boehner stays in the job, Costa’s observation was as unsatisfying as it was scary.

I think John Boehner is frustrated by leading the Republicans in the House, but I think he very much loves being speaker. To understand him you have to understand that. … He loves being a major American political figure, but he’s not a Newt Gingrich-like figure trying to lead the party in a certain direction. He’s just trying to survive and enjoy it while it lasts.

“He’s just trying to survive and enjoy it while it lasts”? Boehner’s grip on the gavel may necessarily be loosening. All the useless theater over shuttered war memorials and mini-appropriations that puts Congress in the business of picking winners and losers is silly compared to the ugly reality that faces us in 15 days if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. President Obama made it clear once again during an interview with John Harwood of the New York Times and CNBC that he will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States. “When you have a situation in which a faction is willing to potentially default on U.S. government obligations, then we are in trouble,” he told Harwood. “And if they’re willing to do it now, they’ll be willing to do it later.”

The time for Boehner to “go against the right” for the sake of the country is drawing nigh. He must not trade our economic survival for his job.

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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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