Has Boehner hit bottom as Speaker of the House? There are a number of reasons to say yes — starting with the failure of a Farm Bill to pass the House:
House Speaker John Boehner lost support from more than one-fourth of his Republican colleagues as the chamber rejected a $939 billion agricultural-policy bill, the latest in a series of embarrassments handed to him by his own party.
Sixty-two Republicans joined Democrats in the 195-234 defeat of the measure Thursday. Many members of the speaker’s party opposed the legislation’s crop-subsidy provisions while Democrats were displeased over cuts to the food-stamp program.
The vote shows how difficult it will be for Boehner to win passage of other legislative initiatives including an immigration law rewrite, raising the nation’s debt limit and changing the tax system. Republicans control the House 234-201.
“It is an embarrassment for the entire Republican conference,” Republican strategist John Feehery said in an interview. “They need to figure out how to legislate this year. If they don’t, it doesn’t bode well for immigration or fiscal negotiations.”
A conservative revolt against House Speaker John Boehner has prompted anxiety among immigration reform proponents that the unrest might be a preview of things to come as the weakened Republican leader heads into heavier legislative waters.
The dramatic 195-234 defeat of the farm bill – with more than 60 GOP defections – left Boehner appearing out of control of his own conference, allowing gleeful Democrats to publicly label his operation “weak” and mired in “amateur hour.”
With a whip operation that was clearly caught flat-footed when Democrats failed to support the bill, some Republicans privately point to what they call a flawed leadership structure, saying that Boehner has been unable to get his team on the same page for issues the party cares about.
And that, they say, doesn’t bode well for immigration reform either.
“I think the real question is that does Speaker Boehner have the support of his lieutenants?” one GOP aide pondered to NBC News. …
[G]rumbling Republican staffers say that the farm bill drama highlighted differences between Boehner and his second-in-command, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Boehner publicly supported the bill and pushed for its passage – a rarity for the speaker – while Cantor pushed for an amendment that peeled off possible Democratic supporters for the bill – votes that could have helped Boehner muscle the legislation to passage.
Worst of all, there is disillusionment over Boehner among his most important constituents: K Street Lobbyists!
“We were shocked. We were watching the vote on TV and in the final minutes were saying ‘what are they doing? This thing isn’t going to pass!’ ” said one commodity group lobbyist.
“I’m shocked,” said another lobbyist. “Our job as agriculture is to go to the House and say Mr. Speaker what is your plan for getting this done?”
The intense blame game that broke out immediately after the bill was rejected in a 195-234 vote will only make it harder to get a bill over the hump, supporters of the measure said. …
One lobbying source said salvaging the bill may have to wait a few months.
“Bringing the bill back while the House is being hyper-partisan on this issue is probably not going to work,” he said. …
One lobbyist noted the bill appeared to lose support after an amendment requiring food stamp recipients to be working or looking for work — sponsored by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) — was added to the bill. The solution, the lobbyist said, is to move the bill to the left.
“The Southerland amendment was a bridge too far for the Democrats,” the lobbyist said.
This source said Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) need to agree on a number for food stamp cuts. The Senate farm bill, approved in a bipartisan vote, includes $4 billion in cuts to food stamps.
Another lobbyist wasn’t so sure that would work.
“I don’t know how you solve this. If you reduce the food stamp cuts to $16 billion how many Democrats do you gain, how many people do you lose?” he said.