John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Boehner and Reid Know What They Are Doing

Posted on September 30, 2013

Michael Jordan makes the last shot to win against Bryon Russell and the Utah Jazz 1998.


John Boehner and Harry Reid are both professionals when it comes to the legislative process.

They know what the system will bear and they know how to negotiate.

Harry Reid has apparently told President Obama not to bother calling any meetings at the White House.  He told the President that if he calls such a meeting, he won’t be attending.

Reid doesn’t really need the President’s help on this stuff and he doesn’t really want him screwing anything up.

The President is still a rookie, despite winning the White House a second time.  He is not much of a negotiator, although things tend to work out despite his efforts.

The timing of this negotiation, on a short-term CR, is fascinating.

This is kind of like trying to get the last shot in a close basketball game.  You have to know exactly when to start the play.

The Speaker has to not only negotiate with Harry Reid.  He also has to negotiate with the forty or so gettable conservatives, the forty or so moderates, and, every once in a while, with Steny Hoyer, the Minority Whip.

He needs Hoyer if he can’t get the 40 gettable conservatives to come with him at crunch time.

By and large, the Speaker doesn’t negotiate with the Minority Leader.   That’s kind of a waste of time.

Boehner knows that unified House position gives him the strongest negotiating leverage with the Senate.

That’s why he went through the process of sending a complete defunding bill over to the Senate, and when that was rejected, he went with a delay of Obamcare with the Medical Device tax.

Delay is probably not going to happen, although when Obamacare starts falling apart, it will be nice to say, “I told you so.”

The Medical Device tax has about a 20% chance of happening with the CR, and an 80% chance of happening later on the process.   There are a lot of Senate Democrats who have been on record supported a full repeal, and now they will be forced to vote against a repeal.

They will want to get right with their constituents (and campaign supporters) at some point in time.

Reid didn’t screw with the House spending levels when he bounced back the CR to the House, which fascinated me.   I thought he would want to use that as leverage against the House, but my guess is that many of his most vulnerable members didn’t want to be on record asking for more spending.

Otherwise, it should have been a no-brainer for him.

As leader, Reid wants to protect his guys.  He doesn’t want the Vitter amendment to be included or voted on because he wants to protect the Senate as an institution.  H also doesn’t want to give Vitter any satisfaction.

The argument to delay the exchanges goes out the window tomorrow, because that’s when they open shop.   Hard to delay an opening of a store that is already opened.  That’s why I think a shut down might occur anyway, although I think it will be of short duration.

The hard right is delusional if they think Obama is going to budge on Obamacare.  I keep reading opinion pieces by these fools who think that merely by shutting the government down, Republicans can force the President to bend to their will.

That ain’t going to happen, but maybe we have to go through the inevitable pain to show these fools how dumb this strategy is.

Republicans are better off trying to pick off the weakest links in the law (like the Medical Device Tax), and score victories by slowly but surely gutting the worst, most unpopular aspects of Obamacare.

In the meantime, they have to focus on funding at the government.

Reid started his play at 2 o’clock today.  He hopes Boehner won’t be able to get off a three point play, but will be forced to accept the Senate’s offer to keep the sequester funding levels.

Boehner might call time out and try one last play or he might accept the Senate offer.  It all depends on what his members let him do.

This is all prelude to the bigger game that comes in two weeks.  Shutting down the government has been done before.  Breaching the debt limit hasn’t.

I have confidence that Boehner and Reid will figure out a way to reach a deal on the debt limit.   After all, they are professionals.