by Jules Witcover
Only a few days into the new year, the
First came the escape from the fiscal cliff that saw its speaker of the House, John Boehner, embarrassed by his flock's failure to back his 11th-hour
Then Boehner was hit with surrender of the
That caveat, going back to the reign of previous House Speaker Dennis Hastert from 1999-2007, was ignored by 85 House Republicans who voted with the Democrats to pass the compromise shaped by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Holding fast against raising the top income-tax rate for the richest Americans were 151 House Republicans, including two subordinates to Boehner in the
On Thursday, the first day of the new
"Maybe you can do it once, maybe you can do it twice," he said in a
Hastert also took issue with a Boehner declaration that he was finished with negotiating one-one-one with President Obama. "When you give up that responsibility," Hastert said, "you really give up your ability to govern, and that's the problem," leaving the power to Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the
All of this bodes ill for the next round of fiscal confrontations guaranteed by the failure to address the expiring debt ceiling deadline and entitlement reforms as part of the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. The tea party Republicans clearly suffered a setback at year's end, and they seem unlikely to give Boehner more leeway to salvage what he can for the smaller-government brigade from the fiasco just experienced.
The Republican failure to achieve the party's prime objective of 2012 -- denying a second term to Obama -- was not the
Rather than recognizing that the course of legislative obstruction over Obama's first four years got the party nowhere, and responding to wiser heads preaching the need for greater ethnic inclusion, the House Republicans appear bent on digging in, to Boehner's continuing frustration.
Thus it appears that the emergence of the tea party movement, which just a few years ago was seen in any Republican quarters as providing a great injection of ideas, energy and enthusiam into their ranks, has turned out to hamper the party's return to the role of responsible opposition.
At the same time, Obama seems unable to assert the sort of firm leadership that his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, achieved in dealing with
Nevertheless, it is the
GOP: Groping Old Party | Politics