Today, Speaker of the House John Boehner narrowly retained his speakership on the first vote. After signing off on a fiscal cliff deal that resulted in a tax increase for 77% of American households and an income tax increase on everyone earning more than $400,000 per year, Boehner was under heavy fire from within his own caucus. But, pledging significant changes to the way he does business, Boehner retained support for his speakership. Most importantly, Boehner has told caucus insiders that he will not be participating in one-on-one talks with President Obama – secret, behind doors talks that left the public and even members of his own party in the dark.
The chastened speaker was on the verge of tears as he spoke to Congress today. Choking up, he pledged a humbler, more consistently conservative tenure as Speaker. “Maybe it’s time we feel awestruck again,” he said to his fellow members of Congress, looking around the House chamber. “The way our founders envisioned it, the republic would be led by citizens who recognize that the blessing of governing ourselves requires that we give something of ourselves. Everything depended on this. So they made each other – and their successors – swear an oath of allegiance …. This covenant makes us servants of posterity. It calls us to refuse the pull of passing interests and follow the fixed star of a more perfect union. Put simply, we are sent here not to be something, but to do something – to do the right thing.”
In order to do the right thing, Boehner will have to stand up to a bullying president intent on raising taxes even more on high-earning Americans. President Obama is set on demagoguing any cuts, and playing the class warfare card he played so successfully during the sequester and fiscal cliff negotiations. Obama has vowed to oppose Congress’ constitutional right to set the debt ceiling unless he gets higher taxes. But there are no more tax increases to be had. The board is set. The era of compromise is over, ended by a President who insists on running America’s fiscal ship into an iceberg of debt, all the while blaming the people who pay the freight.
In his address, Boehner acknowledged that problem: “At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of state. The American Dream is in peril so long as its namesake is weighed down by this anchor of debt. Break its hold, and we begin to set our economy free. Jobs will come home. Confidence will come back. We do this not just to boost GDP or reduce unemployment, but to secure for our children a future of freedom and opportunity. Nothing is more important.”
But we cannot tax our way to debt relief. And Boehner must know at this point that the tax deal he signed off on can only be even remotely justified by heavy cutting, and by singleminded willingness to do anything – even let Barack Obama shut down the government — to achieve that goal.
Boehner seemed humbled by the chaos surrounding his speakership vote. His voice catching, he said, “Public service was never meant to be an easy living. Extraordinary challenges demand extraordinary leadership. So if you have come here to see your name in lights or to pass off political victory as accomplishment, you have come to the wrong place. The door is behind you.”
Boehner had best heed his own words. The fate of the country relies on his willingness to stand up against a president who would impoverish our children and castrate those who earn in order to complete his America-transforming project.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, and author of the upcoming book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).