Three Political Reasons for Boehner to Finally Ditch the Tea Party

Speaker Boehner Photograph by Evan Vucci/AP Photo

With House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) failing to reach a debt deal that could be backed by his Republican caucus last night, the job of reaching a workable agreement falls back to bipartisan negotiators in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Assuming Senate leaders find a solution, Boehner will be forced to decide whether to put the deal up for a vote. notwithstanding probable opposition from Tea Party lawmakers.

Boehner has long signaled that he doesn’t believe default is an option because of the economic harm it could cause, and the National Review is reporting this morning that he has agreed to hold a vote on the Senate plan, even if passage relies on Democrats. It would be a smart move—and not just because it would avert the potential calamity of a U.S. default. Here are three reasons why it would be politically savvy:

1. Boehner doesn’t really risk losing the speaker’s gavel. While it is possible to replace Boehner as speaker, the Brookings Institution’s Molly Jackman argues that the Tea Party would “almost certainly not” benefit from doing so. That’s because nominating a new speaker requires a majority vote in the House, and the Tea Party wing makes up less than 10 percent of the chamber. The Tea Party is “far more likely to end up with a moderate Republican—say, Paul Ryan—than Raul Labrador or Tim Huelskamp,” Jackman says. “Even worse, if the Republican caucus divides among GOP candidates, the House could even end up with a consensus Democrat as the new speaker.”

2. The GOP is losing ground, even in its gerrymandered districts. The shutdown and debt-ceiling fights have sent the national opinion of Republicans to record lows, but as I reported earlier this week, that’s all the more so in the gerrymandered districts that were once thought to be “safe” seats for conservative Republicans. The swings are so great in these districts that Princeton professor Sam Wang, whose predictions nailed the 2012 election results, says the chance of Democrats taking over the House has risen from 13 percent before the shutdown to as high as 50 percent.

3. Tomorrow is another day. Even the Wall Street Journal‘s conservative editorial board says, “Let’s get it over with.” The longer the Republicans delay approving a stop-gap debt deal, the paper’s editorial writers contend, the more credibility they will lose in negotiating long-term solutions. If the government defaults on its debts and stops sending out Social Security checks, they predict massive damage. “Republicans can best help their cause now by getting this over with and moving on to fight more intelligently another day.”

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