Norman Ornstein: GOP ‘Radicals’ Made Speakership Unappealing

John Boehner
AP Photo/Steve Helber

Norman Orstein of the American Enterprise Institute blames conservatives for pushing John Boehner out of Congress and tarnishing the office of Speaker itself, saying, “Leaders who try to operate within realistic constraints face certain revolt from insurgents demanding ideological purity.”

From The Atlantic:

The speaker of the House is the first constitutional officer mentioned in the American Constitution, well before the president. In Article 1, Section 5, the Constitution says “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker.” The Speaker is thus a hugely important and prestigious figure in American life. So why would John Boehner, who wept copiously when he realized on Election Eve 2010 that he was soon to achieve this incredible honor, a lifetime dream, leave in the middle of a term and give it all up?

There is an immediate answer. Boehner has struggled since he became speaker with an unruly party caucus—a growing collection of Republican lawmakers who are, to put it gently, not interested in the pragmatic realities of policy making in a system of divided and overlapping powers. For the past five years, Boehner has tried to keep his team in check, often giving members leeway to pursue reckless tactics and radical policies, only to rein them in by turning to Democrats for votes after their efforts had turned catastrophic. But that approach was no longer working.

Trying to show that Republicans could govern responsibly, without another government shutdown or debt-ceiling showdown, he faced a nearly unprecedented motion from his own ranks to vacate the speakership, with a strong chance that he would be ousted from the post unless Democrats—at a price—bailed him out. That would have left him in a weakened and embattled state for a miserable 15 months remaining in the 114th Congress. The day after the high point of his tenure—the appearance of the Pope at his side for a joint session of Congress—he decided it was no longer worth it.

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