Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The case for Cantor, but not too much

Image from Wikimedia Common

Negotiations in 2011 over the debt ceiling seemed to cement allegations that Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, was a man who struggled to close the deal with his caucus. While he has a really tough job - House Republicans are divided starkly between those of the establishment and those of the Tea Party - he doesn't seem to know his congressional voters like, for example, his predecessor Nancy Pelosi.

In 2011, Boehner repeatedly acted like he was close to a deal with congressional Democrats and the White House before pulling the plug - sometimes without any reason. 

This time around while the fiscal cliff* negotiations went on, Boehner again had ideas he released that he then canned because it wouldn't pass his caucus. Repeatedly, he has been as clear as a box of mud. This has driven negotiators, and everyone invested in resolving these (often manufactured) crises, dilly. 

So what would be the answer? It may lie in the hands of the House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cantor is, reportedly (as I have never sat in on him negotiating), much clearer when it comes to what he wants out of negotiations (although he is also more exploitative when it comes to the media - ie, he acted differently in larger meetings in 2011 when he knew meeting contents would leak to the media). He is more sympathetic to the Tea Party faction of House Republicans, but is seemingly more in touch with what will satisfy a majority of the Republican House majority.

What Cantor brings to negotiating is clarity, in spite of him being personally more ideologically opposed to the people with whom he is negotiating. It is no coincidence that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell managed to strike a deal with the White House (via VP Joe Biden) while Boehner could not. McConnell is also rather more sympathetic (by virtue of being up for re-election in 2014 in a state that elected Senator Rand Paul in 2010) to the Tea Party wing, but knows how to close a deal and has less bullshit attached. He knows his caucus (and the last 48 hours will show you he gets the House Republicans to a fair degree too), his legislative body, and the limit to which they will stretch. It is unclear Boehner does. 

While Cantor may be further ideologically from Democrats, he may be far easier to negotiate with.

But, it stands, the unruly Republican caucus remains, no matter who heads it up. Cantor would hardly solve the struggles of moving legislation through the House. But if I was on either side of the upcoming debt ceiling deal, I'd prefer to deal with Cantor. 

*I believe this term is misleading. The fact that the world didn't ened on 31 December is reflective of that. 

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