John Boehner: The New Denny Hastert

Posted by | July 11, 2011 11:12 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Speaker of the House John Boehner backtracked this weekend on reaching a deal on the debt ceiling.  Boehner had earlier agreed with the president on the opportunity to reach a $4 trillion deal.  He seemingly disagreed with his deputy, Eric Cantor, on the wisdom of compromising with the president.  Guess who won the disagreement.  And guess who is not really in charge of his caucus.

The Speaker of the House is arguably one of the most powerful offices in the government, at least in theory. It’s supposed to be within Boehner’s power to simply tell his caucus what they have a responsibility to do, and demand their fealty.

But a leader with no followers is, by definition, weak. Boehner may be the Speaker, but as he’s quickly realizing, he’s taking the orders, not giving them.

In the asylum known as the House of Representatives, is there any doubt as to the inmates’ power?

Speakers such as Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi controlled their caucuses for better or for worse.  It’s clear that Boehner, despite some early indications, has no intention of being that kind of Speaker.  Instead, his model appears to be Dennis Hastert, who looked to his deputy for instruction.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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