Plan C: ‘All Roads Lead Back to Boehner’ – UMD’s Kettl

University of Maryland School of Public Policy Dean Don Kettl on where the fiscal cliff negotiations head after Plan B fails:

“For the Republicans, this is a very weak situation. They’re struggling to get their mojo back after the election. It’s very clear they don’t know which way to go and they aren’t willing to follow anyone to get them there.

For the Democrats, there will be a powerful temptation to allow the Republicans to swing in the wind. It’s hard to beat something with nothing, and right now the Republicans have nothing to bring to the table. The Democrats will surely enjoy watching this for a few days, and watching the approval ratings of the House Republicans drop a few more notches.

But we’re playing for very high stakes. Schadenfreude is not a policy or an answer. The Democrats can sit back and watch the chips on their side of the table grow, but they can’t sit back and watch the budget tumble over the cliff.

For Boehner, the key strategic question now is whether he can ever deliver his caucus on anything—and whether his only hope is to find enough Republicans to build a majority with House Democrats to get something passed. That would be a radical step from his work so far, and it would gravely weaken him with his own party. He’s caught between the rock of an intransigent right and the hard place of the fiscal cliff. He can’t stay there and survive politically; what’s less clear is whether he can move in any direction and survive.

He’s punted the ball to the Democrats and said, in effect: here—you solve it. There’s little point, though, in the Senate acting without knowing what the House can pass. All roads lead back to Boehner.

The public is tiring of the wrangling. It would not help anyone to be around if the budget slides over the edge, and the Democrats will have a piece of the responsibility if that happens. But every single signal points to the inescapable fact that this is a far more difficult problem for Boehner and the House Republicans than for anyone.”

*Source: University of Maryland

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