The Live Fix with Chris Cillizza: John McCain, John Boehner, and more

Jul 29, 2011

Get your Friday Live Fix as Chris Cillizza discusses all things politics, including John McCain's tongue lashing, the of John Boehner, the 2012 Presidential race and more.

Good morning everyone. It's been an amazing last 12 hours.

House Republican leaders admitted defeat, at least temporarily, when they postponed a planned vote on John Boehner's debt ceiling compromise last night.

The focus now appears to have turned to the Senate where Harry Reid is going to start moving his plan forward today.

President Obama, in a speech this morning, sought to drive a stake through the heart of the House plan and urged the Senate to figure out a bipartisan compromise.

So, that's where we are.  Let's get to your questions.

From a purely political standpoint, how badly has his image suffered?

It's a really bad week for him.

Boehner knew he was taking a gamble by introducing his own plan but clearly believed he could wrangle the votes.  Turns out, he couldn't.

At this point, whether the House passes the bill or not may not matter much since the story appears to have moved on to the Senate AND the concessions Boehner will need to make to get the bill passed will make it even less palatable to the Senate.

Is there any doubt Coach Taylor would have had this mess cleared up by now?

"I said you need to strive to be better than everyone else. I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the trying." 

-- Eric Taylor.

I mean, seriously.  HOW DID THAT SHOW NOT CATCH ON????


When are the Republicans going to get serious about passing the debt limit? Right now, Boehner may have an easier time rounding up votes from the Dems than his caucus. All he has to do is drop the two-step debt raise, and it passes both houses of Congress. Oh, I long for the days when freshmen congresscritters were seen and not heard!

It seems to me that the key player after the House couldn't get the votes last night is Mitch McConnell not John Boehner.

McConnell needs to decide whether to cut a deal with Reid and the White House and what the shape of the deal is. Then they have to get it through the House....

With your recent column on how Homer's "Can't Somebody Else Do It?" slogan applies to Congress, are you going to make a Famous Fix list of top political moments in the Simpsons? Mr Burns runs for Governor, Sideshow Bob runs for Mayor, the Recall of Mayor Quimby, Lisa goes to Washington & Springfield's Congressman gets caught taking a bribe, George Bush 41 moves next door, Homer's run for Sanitation Commissioner, Lisa is President in the future, and Ralph Wiggum wins Springfield's first in the nation primary and becomes both the GOP & Dem nominee? (Just to name a few...)

A tremendous list -- and a good idea.  What say you folks? Worth doing?

Chris, have a GREAT weekend....(when you aren't trying to follow the ineptitude of Congress as it screws with all of our weekend)

I will do my best....

As there are more Dems pushing the President to utilize the 14th Amendment option to raise the debt ceiling (Truman did it) what would you expect the blow-back to be. Many top economists contend that the debt ceiling should be non-existent as it only provides bitter debates that result in what we know have...attaching conditons that are unrelated to the debt.

I think the idea of invoking the 14th amendment amounts to the whole "deem and pass" thing during health care.

The President doesn't want to do it because he is (rightly) worried that it will look like he is totally bypassing Congress on an issue of huge concern to the American public.

Any sort of move that has even a whiff of gimmickry/gaming the system isn't going to go over well.

At this point would it be quicker to just do a clean debt ceiling vote now? Is there too much riding on attaching deficit reduction to this? And if they could do clean debt vote, could there be way to introduce raising revenue into the conversation again?

I just don't think it's possible.  Not enough R votes to get anywhere close to passage.

It struck me this week that it is a little unusual for Wasserman Schultz to be the DNC chairman. Usually, the DNC and RNC want the chairs to be able to say outlandish things and get away with them. However, many of the things that DWS says can be used against her in 2012. Historically, are chairmen often sitting elected officials?

Remember that she represents a VERY Democratic district.  Her constituents agree with much/all of what she says.

Of course, Tim Kaine's comments as DNC Chair will likely be a major point of George Allen's campaign in the swing-state Virginia Senate race.

How does Boehner save his speakership?

I am not sure he needs to.

The truth is that Boehner's failure to pass the bill is also a failure by Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan (aka the Young Guns) who were tasked with whipping the bill.

While the tea party element of the House GOP has enough membership to deprive Boehner of the majority he needs, they don't have anywhere near enough votes to unseat him as Speaker.

This is clearly a bad week for Boehner but I don't see him leaving the Speakership any time soon.

What was the purpose of President Obama's address just now? If the Tea Partiers didn't listen when Cantor and Boehner told them to stop acting crazy, why would they listen to him?

His point was to proclaim the House bill dead and to urge movement in the Senate, which is what is happening.

I also think he wanted to try and make sure he got out and expressed his confidence that a deal would be reached to keep the markets from freaking out.

Worst week: If having your photograph of you in a tiger suit is the high point of your week, chances are you had a bad week.

Agree that David Wu had a bad one. But doesn't it feel like Boehner's was worse?

Has Boehner's standing in the House GOP taken a hit? If so, can he recover and retain his leadership position for the foreseeable future?

I think so (see above). Clearly Boehner's power and influence will be questioned after what happened last night.

But I don't see anyone stepping up to beat him just yet.

This one gets my vote: Rand Paul's response to John McCain's reading of the WSJ editorial which included a reference to Tea Partiers as Hobbits: "I'd rather be a Hobbit than a Troll" Would love to see an animation with the new lyrics (I'd rather be a Hobbit than a Troll) set to Simon & Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa" (I'd rather be a hammer than a nail, yes I would if I only could, I surely would) by Funny or Die or JibJab or Telnaes perhaps?


Okay, here's my thought... Reid gets moderate R's to go for his bill, with McConnell not whipping against because he sees it as the only way out. Bill goes to the House, where Pelosi maintains a united front and carries all Dems for the bill and Boehner/Cantor whip enough establishment R's to carry the bill. Am I off base here?

Nope. I think that may be the path.  But where does that leave Boehner/Cantor once the deal is done?

Has Biden been unleashed yet, could he be a secret weapon as a dealmaker, or is this all GOP intramural fighting?

The keuy conversation now is between Obama/Reid/McConnell. Period.

The straw poll is in Ames. Why are you having your Politics and Pints session in Des Moines? As one of your loyal Iowa chatters, I am vexed that you didn't choose one of our fine venues in Ames for your P&P venture into the Heartland.

Because we are doing the Politics and Pints three full days before the Straw Poll....I will be in Ames for the GOP Debate and the actual straw vote.

Love Ames! GO Cyclones.

On MTP this week, there was discussion on the round table about different "types" of speakers ( I suppose strongmen vs. negotiators?), and that Boehner wasn't known for being a strongman. What's the alternate strategy for rounding up votes for him, if at this point he can't force it through?

He just doesn't have that many options.

The R "no" votes are true believers who don't buy the idea that default will happen or is that bad a thing if it does.

As for the persuadables, what can Boehner give them? Remember that earmarks are no more...

What are the chances that something, anything, is passed by both houses on or before Aug 2?

Myself and Ezra Klein are doing a daily meter on the liklihood of the deal...stay tuned...will be on the Fix shortly.

Here's yesterday's installment.

Don't forget Kang and Kodos replacing Bill Clinton and Bob Dole for the '96 election! Where they uttered the all-too-relevant phrase, "The politics of failure have failed!"

It's so true.

If they cut the budget, they better not touch the East Dillon football budget...wait? What?

But, honestly....wouldn't make more sense to cut West Dillon given the success of East Dillon?  

The good ol' reliable twitter feed is reporting that Rep. Jeff Flake is now a "yes" because the updated House bill will include requirements for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Given the political reality surrounding a BBA, I ask a very important question: What color is the sky in their world?

This goes to my point: Adding BBA means the bill has even less chance of being taken up by the Senate. (Of course, there isn't a number less than zero.)

So, whether or not Boehner gets a more conservative bill through the House today or tomorrow is somewhat irrelevant now..

FYI: Sky Net is now operational and has just attained self-awareness.

Only a matter of time now.

I am waiting for the Cylons to break the non-aggression armistice....

Dow is up 2 points...started down over 100...

Buy gold.

Is Pence really kicking himself now for dropping out of leadership to run for Gov.? He has always been one of the most articulate Republican voices, something that seems to be missing in this debt ceiling debate.

Nope. Because he wants to be president and the best path to get there is governor.

Also, I bet pence is THRILLED he isn't in leadership today...

Man, David Wu, offer up some praise to the deity/non-religious life force of your choice. You made unwanted advances (and possibly worse) to a teenage family friend, possibly while wearing a tiger suit, and you STILL only had the second-worst week in Washington. Timing is everything!

Was thinking the same thing this a.m....

Chris, you just mentioned that part of the President's strategy in this morning's speech was to keep the markets from feaking out. Maybe I'm reading this incorrectly, but I feel like part of the reason that the debt limit debate has been able to stretch this long is that the markets have generally taken it in stride. If the markets freaked out today, wouldn't that put an additional impetus on the Congress to act quickly?

Right on both counts.

But, I don't think the President is rooting for a stock panic to get this done.

No way the House bill goes anywhere, right? So it's up to the Senate to work out a deal....but then it has to be pushed by the House again? Maybe I'm missing something, but the Tea Party folks have to give in or nothing gets passed.

Or Nancy Pelosi has to deliver a bunch of Democrats...which is the FAR more likely solution.

Sure. If it is easy it has got to be worth doing.

So true.  My one question: "Can't someone else do it?"

Why doesn't Obama order Geithner to mint three trillion dollar platinum coins and deposit them at the Federal Reserve? Is Obama derelict if he fails to exercise this explicitly legal option?

I will pass this along to the responsible parties...

but what about all those senators who might vote 'present' for the bill?

Going to write on the politics of the Senate this pm. Remember that ther are A LOT of Dems up in swing or R leaning states in 2012.  They are not assumed "yes's" for any deal.

In the past couple of days - in news reports referencing the efforts made by Republicans to push a debt ceiling bill through the House - I've noticed the articles tend to reference either John Boehner individually, or to "House Leaders" as a group. Why is no one referencing Eric Cantor individually? Isn't he the House Majority Leader? Is he not being referenced because [in reality] he's not actively supporting Boehner or worse, working against the Speaker's efforts? Isn't his job as Majority Leader to support the Speaker? Just wondering.

No, Cantor is actually right with Boehner in the push for the bill.

I think people tend to refer to Boehner because he us the Speaker -- the top ranking R in the House.

I'm reading that a major reason that Boehner's bill couldn't pass the House was that it failed to cut Pell grants enough to satisfy the Tea Partiers. Why is Boehner, of all people, endangering his speakership to protect Pell grants, of all things?

Republicans have denied that's the case already today.

I feel like I'm in a bad game of russian roulette, where there are four bullets in a six chamber gun. The republicans pick up the gun and point it at the federal employees and pull the trigger. Then the democrats pick it up and point it at the taxpayers. I'm a federal employee and a taxpayer. . .

I think there is a lot of "pox on both your houses" out there in the American public right about now.

I'm far in the future, but do you think Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-MD) is a stong contender for the 2016 presidential nomination? I believe he is positioning himself for a potential run.

He is, without question, positioning himself for a run.

And, I think he could be a serious contender. His main issue will likely be whether he can raise enough money to stay competitive with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a primary.

Yes, I am well aware I am handicapping a race that is five years from now. I can't help myself :)

If not Boehner or leadership, who, if anyone, and clearly it's not even Reagan, could ever convince the Tea Party members of Congress that they might be wrong?

Not going to happen. If this bill passes Congress, it is going to be with moderate R's and D's in the Senate and D's and some establishment R's in the House -- at least that is my guess at the moment.

I see no scenario under which a Reid-authored plan -- even with changes made by McConnell -- will be palatable to the tea party wing of the House GOP.

I always thought that the best Republicans could do in the debt ceiling debate was come out in a tie. On Wednesday, I thought maybe they could actually win the debate. Now it seems hopeless for them and Obama and Reid have this locked up. Who comes out ahead next week in the public's eye?

I honestly have NO idea. I wrote a while back that this could be a lose-lose political proposition for everyone involved as voters grow more and more disgusted with the way things work in Washington. I am sticking with that.

Historically, have the party chairs usually been sitting elected officials? It seems like a lot of the hyperbole both sides spout can be extremely damaging in any upcoming elections.

Often but not always....and, yes, that is the main reason that elected officials can be wary about taking on the job...

Chris, obviously Boehner's brand took a big hit yesterday, but what about the effect on the Young Guns? How much does it say about their own brand that they couldn't wrangle, with Speaker Boehner's own clout, enough votes to pass this thing?

It definitely doesn't help them either. The Young Guns were fully engaged in the effort to find 217 people to be for it.

One thing I think is being overlooked: Boehner + Young Guns seemed to not grasp that there were always going to be 20 or more hard "Nos" within the GOP and so they needed to find a few Dems to be for it to offset those defections.

Pelosi's ability to keep her caucus in line is remarkable.

If you're doing the Politics & Pints thing for 3 days solid, I hope you're not driving!

Doing one Monday night -- August 8 -- in DC. Then hop a plane Wednesday -- August 10 -- to do one in Des Moines! Will be fun.

Sorry, Chris, I know you like to be objective, but that's the sort of thinking that causes this kind of gridlock. The Dog Day Afternoon Tea Party members are holding the government hostage. You can say it's principal or political strategy, but it's that small group that is unwilling to govern.

Certainly one way to look at it.

Isn't that the point? shouldn't MOST EVERYTHING pass with moderates? the problem being that we are electing more and more far left and far right people? there aren't really a whole lot of moderates left.


Amazing stat: Prior to the 2010 election, there were 54 moderate/conservative Dems in the Blue Dog Coalition. After the election there were 25. And four have either resigned or are retiring. 

Will these Tea Party yahoos face any penalty if even part of the economic damage predicted come true? When did "Mad As Hell" become the defining trait of legislators?

There are lots and lots of people out in the country who are mad as hell. 

If what gets through the House & Senate is an unpalatable disaster in view of the President, he still could get his clean debt ceiling bill by vetoing that disaster by 11:30pm on Aug 1. To avoid default, Congress will have no choice but to spend 5-10 minutes in each House passing a 1 page bill amending Section 3101 of Title 31 of the Federal Code with a date and amount change (done several times in the past to raise the debt limit) and get that single page to the President (a 5 min process) for him to sign.

Wow. Talk about cutting it close! But, who knows. This has been incredibly unpredictable so far.

I almost always (99% of the time) vote against incumbents. I pretty much always think that things are working well, thro the bums out. maybe some people will agree with me in the coming years? i mean, typically, almost anyone is better than a sitting incumbent. no matter how looney they may sound.

"Can't someone else do it?!"

Here's my piece on just that sentiment.

Just remember Sam Rayburn or what you read about him. I won't say he would shoot anyone. But again....he was from Texas.


I am strolling down memory lane with it being 10 years since I interned on the Hill when Ben's chili, a great subway system, and clubs playing Ja Rule made me fall in love with DC. What was the Fix doing in the summer of 2001?

Courting the now Mrs. Fix. And playing pickup basketball without the resultant aches and pains I deal with these days.

Man, those were the days.

I thought the running narrative was she was a sidelined loser. I agree that she's done a lot with little leverage.

Yup. Ditto.

Don't the extremes in both parties win in their gerrymandered districts because they held strong?


I must have missed that. Where might one find the details, and do I have to pre-register?

Right here.

Turns out the Farrelly Bros. (Something About Mary, Dumb & Dumber, Outside Providence, etc...) are fundraising for their longtime family friend Brendan Doherty in Doherty's run for the Republican nod in Rhode Island's 1st congressisonal district.  Where does that fall on The Fix Endorsement list?

May have to make up a new category for it...but I think it fits in the "celebrity" endorsement.

For those who don't know, here's our Fix endorsement hierarchy.

Did Huntsman, who probably needs to take a risk to remain relevant, stick his neck out too far by being the only Presidential candidate to endorse the Boehner deal (or any deal for that matter)?

Huntsman's play in this race as to be the reasonable/responsible person so being for the Boehner bill made sense in that context.

But it doesn't look so good right now....

No question, really -- just an observation. Given that the House Republicans are being held up by reps from South Carolina, I keep getting flashbacks to those scenes in "John Adams" where the Continently Congress gets held up by... South Carolina! WWBFD? (What would Ben Franklin Do?)

Check out Fix Rachel's piece on the SC delegation. Just posted!

Folks -- Hugely busy day so I am going to step ou a few minutes early. Have a great weekend and hopefully when the "Fix Faceoff" chat happens Monday at 11 am  we'll have a deal.


In This Chat
Chris Cillizza
Chris Cillizza is the managing editor of PostPolitics and he writes "The Fix," a politics blog for The Washington Post. He also covers the White House for the newspaper and website. Chris has appeared as a guest on NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN to talk politics. He lives in Virginia with his wife and son.

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