Viva Boehner

The last month has not been good to John Boehner. His attempt to circumvent President Obama and gain leverage over congressional Democrats with a “Plan B” on the fiscal cliff was foiled by House Republicans, and when it came time to pass the deal crafted by the Senate, he had to rely on Democratic votes—only 85 members of his conference voted for the agreement.

On top of that, he’s had to worry about power grabs from his right (Eric Cantor), discontent from the membership, and constant criticism from everyone else. Just yesterday, New Jersey governor Chris Christie went on a rampage, attacking the House Speaker for failing to bring a bill offering aid to Hurricane Sandy victims to the floor for a vote.

But despite his trials and tribulations, Boehner has managed to hold on. Today, a new Congress was sworn in, and Boehner secured 220 votes for Speaker of the House, giving him the job for another two years. That’s a narrow margin (just two votes past a majority), and it’s obvious that he was vulnerable to a challenge. But a narrow victory is still a victory.

But on another note, who wants the job anyway? Think about what it entails: For the next two years, Boehner will have to wrangle a group of conservative lawmakers who have no problem tanking the global economy if it means more spending cuts. Indeed, with the debt ceiling on the horizon, they’re likely to give it another go.

There’s no way Boehner can escape that situation without looking weak and becoming even more unpopular. Yes, he’s speaker, but he also stands as the (unpopular) face of the (unpopular) Republican Party. It’s not a winning hand. And until it becomes one—or at least, until Democrats take back the House—no one else is going to want to hold the speaker’s gavel.


So They Say

"Spread your legs, you're going to be frisked. You say that to somebody in North Dakota they think it's a frisk. They think you're in trouble right? I'm a little too formal, I know."

Vice President Joe Biden, being his usual entertaining self while swearing in new senators

Daily Meme: 113th Season Premiere

  • It's out with the old, in with the new on Capitol Hill today, with the swearing in of new legislators and a not-so bittersweet goodbye to those who won't be returning. 
  • Over at ThinkProgress, they especially won't miss these exiting politicians.
  • The whole 112th Congress in general was pretty rotten, writes Ezra Klein. And it looks like the 113th might not be any better thanks to long-term trends toward deep polarization. Rats. 
  • But there are some silver linings on the thunder cloud that is our nation's government. The 113th will be the most diverse Congress ever, including the first Hindu in the House and the first Buddhist in the Senate. 
  • There's a record-breaking 20 women Senators ... which still seems woefully low, but progress is progress. 
  • Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema is the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress.
  • Senator Mark Kirk came back to work, almost a year after his stroke. 
  • Not everything is new, though. Despite pissing off much of his party, John Boehner was re-elected top dog in the House. 

What We're Writing

  • Steve Erickson says it's time to cut Obama some slack on the fiscal-cliff deal. 
  • Harold Meyerson writes that Wall Street came out champ in the final fiscal-cliff package.


What We're Reading

  • Tim Geithner isn't going to stick around for the next debt-ceiling debacle.
  • Chicago's homicide rate is terrifyingly high and knows no bounds, even at funerals, and is a clear sign of how divided the third-largest city in the country remains.
  • Jonathan Chait tears apart the GOP's latest nutty plan to ditch negotiations with Obama.
  • Kevin Drum explains how spikes in lead poisoning correlate to spikes in crime.
  • The Obama administration unveiled new rules to help families separated by the country's immigration rules.
  • Daily Caller writer Matt Lewis recognizes that conservatives have lost the culture wars.
  • Steve Kornacki says we can't judge Obama's fiscal-cliff deal until we see what he does on the debt ceiling.

Poll of the Day

Likely voters are evenly divided on the last-minute deal reached on New Year's Day to avert the fiscal cliff. According to a new Rasmussen survey, 46 percent of voters approve of the compromise—which raises tax rates on incomes over $400,000 but locks in the bulk of the Bush era tax cuts—while 46 percent dislike the deal.

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