Sources close to embattled Speaker of the House John Boehner says the smell of alcohol is far more prevalent on him these days as the continuing government shutdown showcases his failure as a House leader and his obsession with keeping his job above all else in a deepening national crisis.
The Boehner who emerged form a White House meeting Wednesday night appeared stubborn but also confused and out of control after he spent 90 minutes refusing to budge from his marching orders from House conservatives only to face reporters and claim it was President Barack Obama who would not negotiate.
“This is Boehner on his last legs,” a frustrated GOP aide told Capitol Hill Blue after the meeting. “The continuing capitulation, rambling rhetoric and attempts to drown his ineptitude in a bottle are taking their tolls.”
As a recovering alcoholic myself — sober 19 years, three months and 27 days — I can recognize the symptoms of a drunk who has yet to face his problem. Boehner displays many of traits of a heavy drinker who is losing his battle with the bottle.
Tales and speculation about Boehner’s failure to keep his drinking under control emerge from the Capitol on a regular basis. Stories have appeared over the last few years in Salon, Raw Story, The Daily Beast and Politics Daily, among others.
Former Congressman Bob Ney, the Ohio Republican who went to prison for his role in the Jack Abamoff lobbying scandal, says Boehner is a “party animal who would rather drink than govern.”
The muddled mess that Republicans find themselves in for the party’s sordid role in shutting down the government earlier this week showcases that Boehner is drinking far more than governing.
As the House tried repeatedly to force either elimination or delay of Obamacare in useless votes as the nation faced the deadline that triggered the shutdown this past , those who mixed among Republican members of Congress said the smell of booze dominated in the GOP cloakroom and on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Tweeted reporter Ginger Gibson to The Huffington Post: “I’m not over exaggerating when I say I can smell the booze wafting from members as they walk off the floor.”
“The place smelled like a college frat party and not a location where the serious business of running the country was being conducted,” emailed one Republican Congressional staffer to Capitol Hill Blue.
Many watchers on Capitol Hill say Boehner’s obsession with the bottle is outstripped only by his obsession with keeping his job.
A host of dynamics in the GOP have forced him to align himself with a camp of hard-core conservatives who, for much of the past three years, have made his life miserable.
Since Boehner became speaker in 2011, these lawmakers, most of them elected in 2010, have challenged his leadership and questioned his conservatism. They have defied him on one big vote after another, often throwing the House and sometimes the country into disarray.
Boehner’s unyielding position on the six-week government funding bill, which the Senate passed, is a testament to the power of that conservative bloc and a concession to its members. The insurgents are now his palace guards.
John Boehner could get out of this mess today. As House speaker, he can bring any bill he pleases to the floor. Like any bill, a continuing resolution to fund the government without gutting Obamacare would need 218 votes to pass. This morning Bloomberg News reports that at least 13 Republicans would vote for such a bill in defiance of the party’s right wing. Add Boehner and the House’s 201 Democrats, and the nation is just two votes shy of reopening the Lincoln Memorial.
Boehner is not doing this because we’re not watching a fight between Democrats and Republicans. It’s not even, really, a fight between the Tea Party caucus and the rest of the Republican party. The government shutdown is the real consequence of three decades spent trying to answer a metaphysical question: What is a party? John Boehner is stuck with an understanding of party discipline that may no longer be relevant—or even good for the Republican Party.
Which raises the question: Is John Boehner dragging the nation down because he puts his job ahead of all else or is his failure to comprehend simply an indication that he is lost in an alcoholic fog?
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