The Corner

Could the Boehner Bill Have Passed the Senate Unamended?

Well it should have been able to.

It’s worth rewinding to see how we got here, because the predominant storyline already sounds something like: Hot-headed tea partiers beat John Boehner into submission (“led by the nose by the tea party” is how I just heard it described on MSNBC). And that doesn’t quite do history justice. 

After the White House talks were clearly going nowhere two weeks ago Saturday, the Boehner bill was introduced, based on a framework tentatively agreed to by Boehner, Cantor, Reid, and McConnell last weekend.

Yes, that Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader.

The president, with his deep and abiding commitment to compromise, went on to reject the framework when Reid presented it to him.

So Reid went in his own direction, as Obama touted today. And with Senator Schumer over his shoulder, Reid began to rally his caucus against the Boehner bill — the one Reid helped conceive.

After today — which it is a safe bet Republicans will frequently point out in coming days and weeks and months — the House would have sent the Senate two bills to address this “urgent” economic situation that the White House keeps lecturing people about. What has the Senate done? What has the White House done?

A lot of talking. Why was House leadership optimistic that Reid might actually get his caucus in line behind the House bill, had it been passed last night as proposed by the speaker? Because he had already tentatively agreed to it last weekend.

With the Balanced Budget Amendment language now, it is all but certain that Reid will not pass the bill as is. As of last night it was arguably a gamble — that Reid, having already agreed in principle to the Boehner bill before it was the Boehner bill, might lead the White House to the compromise it claims to want. 

Understandably, the House GOP caucus didn’t have confidence in Reid. Can’t say I blame them. But leadership plausibly may have been doing exactly what Obama, in a Freudian slip, challenged Cantor to do: Call my bluff. After all the bombast, he may just have signed it — frankly, making him look like a bit of a leader, having been forced into it.

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