Republicans likely to vent fury as Boehner stands for re-election

Thu, Jan 3, 2013, 00:00

Republican lawmakers angry at this week’s fiscal cliff deal will make their feelings publicly known to John Boehner today, with at least a dozen expected to vote against his re-election as the speaker of the House of Representatives.

While the chain-smoking Ohio representative’s position as the leader of the house is not in jeopardy, Mr Boehner still faces the daunting task of trying to bring together a caucus whose divisions have been laid bare during the negotiations to avert fiscal calamity.

“Even though people have a lot of incentive to stamp their feet today, I think they understand that Boehner was in a very difficult spot,” said Tony Fratto, a treasury spokesman during the George W Bush administration.

The real test is still to come, with the looming negotiations on raising the US’s borrowing limit and cutting spending. Republicans think they now have the upper hand as Democrats have received their top demand – an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for all but the richest 2 per cent of Americans – and therefore lost their leverage.

But that is not the case, say analysts such as Mr Fratto. “This is not going to end in a happy place,” he said. “Are we going to shut down the government? We’ve played that game before and lost. Are we going to default on the full faith and credit of the US government? That’s not a threat. Congress will have to vote for [raising the debt ceiling].”

In a highly unusual split, Mr Boehner and Paul Ryan, the leader of the budget hawks, voted for the fiscal cliff deal on Tuesday night, while two other top Republicans – majority leader Eric Cantor and majority whip Kevin McCarthy – voted against it.

‘Hastert rule’

The Republicans abandoned their adherence to the “Hastert rule”, by which a “majority of the majority” must support a Bill before it is brought to a vote. They also abandoned the take-no-prisoners commitment not to raise taxes that has become the party’s orthodoxy since the rise of the conservative Tea Party movement four years ago.

In the final breakdown, the Bill raising taxes on top earners was passed with the support of 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans.

Republicans in the Senate had earlier backed the deal in even greater numbers, when only five of the upper chamber’s 47 Republicans voted against it, allowing the Bill to pass the Senate, 89 to eight.

In another twist, Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist and architect of the pledge most Republican lawmakers had signed vowing not to raise taxes, gave the Bill his stamp of approval. “The Bush tax cuts lapsed at midnight last night. Every R voting for Senate Bill is cutting taxes and keeping his/her pledge,” Mr Norquist wrote on Twitter.

– (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013)