When you make a public threat, you’d better be able to back it up.

John Boehner learned that lesson the hardest way possible this past week. On Wednesday, the House speaker publicly promised that he and his colleagues would pass legislation preserving the current tax rates for everyone earning less than $1 million. On Thursday, Boehner failed to even get the bill to the House floor — admitting in a news release that the legislation simply lacked the votes to be passed.

Gut punch.

Boehner had believed that the best way to rally his side — and gain some much-needed leverage in the “fiscal cliff” debate with President Obama — would be to stage a show of strength in the House. But as Thursday wore on, it became clear that a revolt from conservatives, many of whom saw voting for any tax increase as anathema, was on and that Boehner was powerless to stop it. Now the House is out of session until after Christmas, not leaving much time for a bipartisan compromise before the Dec. 31 deadline.

As the vote went down before it even came up, one message came through loud and clear: Boehner doesn’t have control of his conference. Politically speaking, that’s a tough reality to recover from.

John Boehner, for writing a check that your speakership couldn’t cash, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

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