John Boehner, back under pressure

September 27, 2013

After a week in Congress in which the focus was squarely on Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and his critics, the spotlight returns to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at the beginning of a pivotal weekend that could decide whether the prospect of a government shutdown becomes a reality on Tuesday.

(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
(Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

With the Senate poised to pass its own version of a continuing resolution to keep the government running Friday, the action will once again be in the House, where Boehner has at least three crucial decisions to make:

* What changes will he make to the Senate's CR? Boehner said Thursday the House wouldn't simply turn around and pass it as is, but he wouldn't tip his hand about what alterations he would make. Anything that threatens Obamacare would be a nonstarter back in the Senate, even though House conservatives would cheer it. And any nonstarters would only move the government -- which will run out of funding after Monday -- closer to shutting down.

* Speaking of Obamacare, can Boehner convince his conference to go along with punting the fight against the health-care law to next month's debt-ceiling debate? It appeared Thursday that he was facing pushback against the idea.

* And speaking of the debt-ceiling debate, when will the House vote on a measure tied to raising the borrowing limit? Will it be before or after the government shutdown showdown is resolved? House conservatives on Thursday signaled that they wanted to see the CR debate play out first, reported The Post's Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane.

These are not easy questions to grapple with. They aren't unexpected, either.

After the House last week passed a stopgap spending bill that would defund Obamacare, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before Boehner once again had to deal with the fundamental question that he has faced throughout his tenure as speaker: How to placate House conservatives but also pass something that has a chance of clearing the Democratic-controlled Senate and being signed into law?

That question now comes with much less time left on the clock than it did a week ago.

It's not clear what Boehner will do. What is clear though is that the events of the last week simply delayed some of the toughest questions facing House GOP leadership. We'll find out in the coming days how those questions are answered.

Fixbits:

Democrat Terry McAuliffe landed the endorsement of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce a day after the group hosted a Virginia gubernatorial debate that pitted him against Republican Ken Cuccinelli II.

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said Thursday that the White House refuses to negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling, comparing the GOP to someone with "a bomb strapped to their chest."

Cruz clashed on the Senate floor with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) will not run for governor.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton will raise money for New York City mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio (D).

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) says he's no bully.

A tea party candidate is considering challenging Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

Must-reads:

"Obama’s line in the sand is on the debt ceiling" -- Zachary A. Goldfarb, Washington Post

"In John Boehner’s district, little fretting over looming government shutdown" -- Matea Gold, Washington Post

"Looking to block Obamacare, GOP is party in search of a strategy" -- Dan Balz, Washington Post

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Chris Cillizza · September 26, 2013