John Boehner and the Worst Congress Ever

David Horsey / Los Angeles Times (December 15, 2013)

Setting new lows for accomplishment in its first year, the 113th Congress is on track to wrest the title of Worst Congress Ever from the horrid 112th Congress. House Speaker John A. Boehner bears a great deal of blame for this dismal record, but he can be commended for finally calling out the conservative activist organizations that have been cheering on the congressional drive toward ignominy.

Last week, with Congress on the verge of actually doing something – passing a compromise two-year budget that would avoid another disastrous government shutdown – right-wing groups such as the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and the tea party umbrella organization FreedomWorks demanded that Republicans vote against the spending plan and threatened that a "yes" vote could be used against incumbents in the 2014 GOP primaries.

At long last, Boehner had had enough. In a news conference Wednesday, the speaker hammered the conservative hard-liners, saying: "They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous. If you’re for more deficit reduction, you’re for this agreement."

In another gathering with reporters Thursday, Boehner took a repeat shot. "I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be," he said. "And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility."

Boehner went on to lay blame for October’s government shutdown squarely with the right-wing money groups. Those groups pushed the shutdown as a bold plan, encouraging the tea party faction of the House Republicans to resist more moderate voices in their caucus. "My members know that wasn’t exactly the strategy I had in mind," the speaker said.

Besides the satisfaction of seeing Boehner smack down the people who have helped turn the Republican Party into a narrow cult of neo-Confederates, it is gratifying to have him lay bare the preposterous lie many of his conservative compatriots tried to foist on the American people at the time of the shutdown. The very right-wingers who engineered the government closure and were eager for a rejection of the debt ceiling raise, including Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Michele Bachmann and the whole crew on Fox News, are the ones who tried to pin blame for it all on President Obama. Unsurprisingly, the faction of Americans who live in a paranoid, Obama-fearing bubble eagerly swallowed this canard.

Now, though, the Republican speaker has spoken the truth. One can hope it is the first small step toward the Grand Old Party being restored to sanity and the first sign that Congress is edging toward redemption.