Another day, another Republican surrender. Everyone saw this coming, but it is no less heartbreaking to see it finally happen. On Tuesday, Speaker of the House John Boehner proved once again that he is without spine and without principle. After months of rhetoric, Boehner gave in to the demands of the Democrats, encouraging the House to vote for a clean Department of Homeland Security bill. The bill is now headed for Obama’s desk, where it will surely be signed without hesitation.
From a political standpoint, this is an embarrassment for Republicans. After all the talk, they’ve given in to pressure. Next time they pretend to draw a line in the sand, Democrats will know that if they can use the media to their advantage, Republicans will cave. In this kind of atmosphere, the results of the 2014 midterm elections are essentially meaningless. Democrats may as well have full control of both houses of Congress.
The media is painting this as a Republican loss, but they have a dubious idea of where the problems lie. They see this debacle as a failure on Boehner’s part to control “unruly” members of his caucus. Unruly, in this case, meaning the true conservatives who didn’t want to put their stamp of approval on the president’s unconstitutional executive order. This is a failure – no question about that – but it is only a failure because Republicans weren’t brave enough to see it through to the end.
The weakness displayed here will likely make it impossible for Republicans to stand against the Democrats in upcoming fights. Medicare reimbursement rates, federal highway funding, and a broad budget resolution are among the disputed bills coming to Congress over the next few months. After backing down this time, Republicans have exposed themselves as a divided, timid army. What good does it do the country to stand firm for a few weeks before ultimately giving in? With every dog-and-pony show, the Republicans make themselves look like more of a joke to the American people.
Worse, though, is the impact this has on history. President Obama’s executive orders and the legality of them will ultimately be decided by the courts. No matter what happens there, history will remember that those orders were approved in a bipartisan fashion. Imagine that. The only thing that matters in the end is the result. Boehner, McConnell, and the rest of the Republicans have made strong statements slamming the president’s orders. But by funding those very orders in the end, those statements can only be viewed as hypocritical attempts to pacify the base.
Governing doesn’t mean trying to satisfy every whim of the conservative base. But when it comes to something as crucial as executive overreach, there is no room for compromise. Republicans will pay for this betrayal. Unfortunately, if that payment comes in the form of a Democratic 2016 victory, it’s the rest of us who have to suffer for their sins.