ohn Boehner couldn't get it done. With an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit looming, the House speaker failed to secure enough Republican votes to pass his much criticized two-step plan. The vote — on which Boehner has all but staked his speakership — was delayed for hours on Thursday night as GOP leaders pulled Tea Party-backed congressman behind closed doors for arm-twisting and pizza. All to no avail: "Anyone who says they know exactly what happens next is lying," says Ezra Klein at The Washington Post. Senate Majority Harry Reid, who's vowed to defeat Boehner's plan in the Senate, is pushing his own proposal. President Obama insists that Boehner's plan "has no chance of becoming law," while Boehner and Co. are scrambling to rewrite it. What can we learn from this messy affair? Here, five lessons:
1. The Boehner plan may still pass
Washington's parliamentary process takes time, and it's unlikely a new bill can be crafted and passed before Tuesday's deadline, says Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. So "the smart money is still on the eventual passage of the Boehner bill. But it's not going to happen without extracting every last drop of patience from the American people."
2. Rogue Republicans are totally out of control
"By any reasonable accounting," Republicans should view Boehner's plan as a success, says The Washington Post in an editorial. They're getting trillions in spending cuts, and no new tax revenue. Their unwillingess to accept that victory threatens the U.S. "Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation," says Joe Klein at TIME. This "is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity." Republicans, who are "willing to concede nothing," are glibly playing poker with the global economy.
3. Which means a bipartisan plan is the only way out
It's "time for the remaining grown-ups in Washington...," says The Washington Post, "to figure out how to help the country slip off the noose." The country simply must lift the debt ceiling, or face economic catastrophe. With Republicans stonewalling Boehner, he'll need the votes of at least some Democrats — and that means Congress needs an alternative to his current plan, time-crunch be damned. "The only path forward in the House is one that brings together the relative moderates in both parties to what passes for a middle ground."
4. The prospect of default is "chillingly real"
"The delay and disintegration" of Boehner's House vote illustrates the extent of Washington's "legislative gridlock," and makes the prospect of an economy-tanking default "chillingly real," say Carrie Budoff Brown and Manu Raju at Politico. And "investors are already souring on Congress... big time," says Louis Basenese at Wall Street Daily. "Note to Congress: Wake up! The market always knows best. The default risks are real. So get to a resolution, pronto!"
5. Boehner's speakership may be doomed
"It's all about John Boehner now — nothing else," says Erick Erickson at RedState. He has convinced his GOP caucus that this fight is no longer about opposing Obama or cutting the debt — it's a referendum on his speakership. And he's in jeopardy, says Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo. Thursday night's failure was a "stunning rebuke of House Republican leaders" and simply "devastating for Boehner." It's a bit ironic, too, says James Rowley at Bloomberg, that the same Tea Partiers who crowned Boehner speaker are now kneecapping him. Hold on, says Politico. Don't count the Ohio Republican out yet. "Boehner has been in plenty of tough scrapes before, and he tends to stay very cool when others start to panic."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- Don't worry: World War III will almost certainly never happen
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why is American internet so slow?
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Watch The Daily Show mock Fox News' confused man-crush on Vladimir Putin
- The new bride who had a horrifying allergic reaction to her husband's sperm
- Religious liberty should be a liberal value, too
- The odds are 11 million to 1 that you'll die in a plane crash
Subscribe to the Week