During the fiscal cliff, conservatives were frustrated to see many negotiation mistakes: Boehner pre-caving; seeing the Senate inaction that put the onus on the House when in fact the Senate needed to move; the aborted "Plan B" attempt; letting the Senate string it out to the last day, so the House was left with "fait accompli or the Cliff's on you" Hobson's choice. Hoo boy ... it was a train wreck you could see coming, and yet, it still happened.
Well, what happened? We fell into traps laid by Obama and Reid is what happened. Well, good news ... a day late and trillion dollars short, but Speaker Boehner has figured out that being the patsy for the Obama-Reid Big-spender/even-bigger-spender routine didn't really cut it. Boehner got quite candid about his fiscal cliff mistakes in a recent talk: http://thehill.com/homenews/house/279413-boehner-full-of-regret-over-fiscal-cliff-moves#ixzz2J7cYEeNk
“Looking back, what I should have done the day after the election was to make it clear the House has passed a bill to extend all of the current tax rates, the House has passed a bill to replace the sequester with cuts in mandatory spending, and the Senate ought to do its work,” Boehner said. “We’re ready, able and willing to work with the Senate as soon as they produce a bill. It should have been what I said. You know, again, hindsight is 20-20.”
The reasons the negotiations were toxic to Republicans were 3-fold:
1. They were with Obama. Not only is Obama a partisan Liberal who is not a flexible negotiator, he is also the wrong person because the real roadblock has always been the US Senate. A bill passing the Congress is the bigger hump than the President's signature (who will sign what a Democrat Senate will pass.)
2. They were in private, not public. Speaker Boehner was subjected to goal-post moving, promised made then broken, public statements and grandstanding contrary to private discussions. We lose right there.
3. But worst of all, it got Reid's Senate 'off the hook' for doing something and putting real Senate proposals on the table, while it cut out the entire Congress and their input, in particular putting House conservatives in the dark. For conservatives, it creates distrust as the process crippled their influence. For all the Congress, it led to "accept this or the world collapses" choices, rather than amendable process.
Even in July 2011, I lamented the failure to adhere to 'regular order' as we saw mischief coming out of the White House 'negotiations'. Via regular order, the House in 2011 produced Cut, Cap and Balance and the Ryan roadmap. The conservative proposal were never seriously considered in the Senate. They should have been, but they were pushed aside by the 'deal' that in the end backfired on Republicans. Anything produced via regular order back then would have been better. Similarly, the fiscal cliff deal, while not bad, was something that Speaker Boehner now admits would have gone better with a Congressional 'regular order' process:
Boehner now believes that effort was a mistake, and he has vowed to Republicans in the House that he will not negotiate one-on-one with Obama going forward. He is instead recommitting to a “regular order” process, whereby the House and Senate pass legislation independently that can then be reconciled with amendments or with conference committees.
This is good: It will keep Obama out of negotiations. Reid's strategy of keeping the Senators out of making tough votes is gone. Will the Senate and President balk at this? They can't. In the end, legislation goes through a process and Speaker Boehner is simply saying he will not longer participate in futile and counterproductive attempts to short-circuit real legislative processes.
As someone who's seen the "Obama one-on-one" negotiation strategy as a mistake for some time, I am left wondering "What took you so long?" but gratified the Speaker is moving up the learning curve and was humble (chastened?) enough to go public. It doesn't mean victory for conservatives, there's not even a conservative majority in the House, let alone 40+ real conservatives in the Senate, but it does mean the Republicans are learning not be patsys for the Obama-Reid tag-team that bloodies the Republican image while taking their lunch money, so to speak. So, whatever comes out of the 'deals' in March/ April / May when we hit the various CR and budget deadlines, the PR outcome won't be so bad and the policy outcome will be 'reasonable' (and to the extent it isn't, it will be grist for 2014 campaigns).
Speaker Boehner had another comment that indicates he is trying to repair bridges with conservatives, pointing out - "Hey, I'm pretty conservative myself":
“Some of our members don’t realize that while I may be a nice enough guy, and I get along with people, when I was voting I had the 8th most conservative voting record in the House,” he said. “But a lot of our newer members – they don’t know that. And so, you know, they think I’m some squish, that I’m ready to sell them out in a heartbeat, when obviously, most of you in this room know that that ain’t quite who I am.”