Republican Party leader John Boehner ought to be a real leader, even if it means losing his title as Speaker of the House. Boehner could probably end the government shutdown today, but it would likely mean losing his job as Speaker of the House after the 2014 elections.
Boehner is sort of a tragic figure in all of this. He used his charm and ability to form coalitions and strike deals to climb his way to become the leader of the Republican Party. Now, to keep that position, he has to be the opposite of who he is at heart.
It was only two years ago, at the brink of another Republican Party manufactured crisis (around raising the debt ceiling, which, by the way, we have to do again in two weeks), that Boehner told Obama: “let’s lock arms and jump out of the boat together.” Boehner was referring the “grand bargain” the two were working on. The two did eventually agree to a “grand bargain,” which most pundits said heavily favored the Republican Party. Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks called it “The Mother of all No-Brainers,” for the Republican Party as a whole to accept the deal.
And what did the Republican Party do? They rejected the deal because it undid the expiring Bush tax cuts on the richest Americans. A number of Republican Party Congresspeople voted against Boehner to keep his role as Speaker of the House.
Now, to try and keep his job after the 2014 midterm elections, Speaker Boehner is kowtowing to the Tea Party wing. That’s why he won’t touch the Senate bill that simply keeps the government funded without changing Obamacare. If he put it up that bill up for a vote, it would likely pass, the government shutdown would end, and Boehner would probably get booted as Speaker of the House (assuming the Republican Party keeps its House majority in 2014, which, due to gerrymandering, it probably will).
If Boehner could actually lead the Republican Party, he could get them to stop hurting the country economically and hurting themselves in the polls. Boehner is a Leader but not a leader, and so the government shutdown continues.