Now that Boehner’s “Plan B” strategy has blown up like a poisoned dog, here’s what Boehner will do.
Remember this chart from last month? It shows strategic options from John Boehner’s point of view:
Yesterday, Boehner tried to land about halfway between the top and bottom quadrant on the left, shown here
Now that Plan B has been rejected, Boehner’s choices are limited to these:
- Adjourn and hit the fiscal cliff
- Cut a deal that will earn most Democrat votes and enough Republican votes to pass
My guess is that Boehner feels betrayed by the 40 or so Republicans who refused to vote for Plan B. In reality, he brought it upon himself by purging the committees of fiscal conservatives. (Anyone who thinks some of this isn’t payback is deluding himself.)
Further, Boehner knows that if he can’t get enough GOP votes to pass an extension of Bush tax cuts on everyone making less than $1 million, he has no chance of getting more Republicans vote for a bigger compromise.
Therefore, the only way the House can pass a fiscal cliff bill is to win a bunch of Democrat votes. Since Democrats know this, they can hold out for whatever Obama demands. Boehner, who doesn’t want to get blamed for failing to reach a deal, will go along and he’ll bring enough Republicans to pass it.
That means Obama gets pretty much whatever he wants. That’s my prediction.
Of course, I could be wrong.
Boehner could also reach a deal with 40 or so Democrats by moving the extension down to $400,000 from $1 million. From a purely strategic point of view, Democrats would be foolish to make that deal. It would undermine Obama and give Republicans their second-best outcome. (Remember, by second-best, I’m speaking strategically. I’m not saying a compromise is the second-best policy outcome.)
With most of the Blue Dog Democrats gone, I don’t see Boehner picking up enough Democrat votes. They know they can dictate the terms, and they probably will.
Sure, Boehner could join the conservatives and pass a bill that permanently extends the Bush tax cuts completely. The Senate will ignore it, we’ll hit fiscal cliff, and the next Congress will deal with it. This would be the best policy choice, but, in Boehner’s mind, it would be the worst possible strategic move. (Again, I’m saying Boehner’s right, but I think this is how he sees it.) Plus, having been humiliated by conservatives on Plan B, Boehner is unlikely to join them now.
Now, go read Erick Erickson’s excellent explanation of why Boehner’s thinking is wrong. (I disagree with only one point of Erick’s. He thinks Boehner and the GOP will let us hit the fiscal cliff; I do not, as explained above.) Following Erick’s lead, here’s the best policy outcome:
What do you think Boehner will do?
P.S. Please don’t scream at me that I’m pulling for a compromise or I want Obama’s $1.6 trillion tax hike to pass. If you’re tempted to do so, read this entire piece again carefully.