Sometimes in politics and legislation, whether you win is less important than how you win.
That’s the dilemma facing House Speaker John Boehner as he tries to round up the votes to pass a fast-approaching spending compromise and avert a partial government shutdown by week’s end.
Boehner, R-Ohio, wants the overwhelming majority of those votes to come from his fellow Republicans, even if dozens of easily attainable Democratic votes could help carry the budget bill to victory.
The goal complicates Boehner’s task, and possibly could push the bill farther to the right. It motivates him to battle for the votes of conservative Republicans who are demanding deeper spending cuts, and greater changes to social issues such as abortion access, than the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama say they can accept.
If Boehner can argue convincingly that it’s the only route to House passage, Democrats conceivably could yield on some points they might otherwise win. At the same time, however, Boehner is trying to persuade Republicans that some compromise is inevitable.
“We control one-half of one-third of the government,” he said last week. “We can’t impose our will on the Senate.”
Eventually, both parties must decide where to draw the line in negotiations and whether to risk a government shutdown that could trigger unpredictable political fallout.
Some congressional veterans say Boehner is taking the only realistic approach for a speaker who wants to stay in power. If he cuts a deal that relies heavily on Democrats’ votes, he could alienate scores of House Republicans, who might in turn start seeking a new leader.
Members of both parties say Boehner probably could assemble 218 votes easily, if he didn’t care who cast them.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press
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