Just two days after the elections, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made it sound as if he's ready to be serious about policymaking. "I'm the most reasonable, responsible person here in Washington," he said. "The president knows it. He knows that he and I can work together. The election's over. Now it's time to get to work."
And to that end, the Speaker all but gave up on trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act. "It's pretty clear that the president was re-elected," he added. "Obamacare is the law of the land."
That was two weeks ago. Today, the nation's top Republican elected official no longer cares about being the most reasonable, responsible person in Washington.
Democrats are both annoyed and amused this morning by an Op ed John Boehner published in an Ohio paper, in which he made the startling demand that the fiscal cliff talks be broadened to include ... Obamacare. From the Op ed:
"The president's health care law adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our national debt already exceeds the size of our country's entire economy. We can't afford it, and we can't afford to leave it intact. That's why I've been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation's massive debt challenge."
As a matter of substance, Boehner apparently has no idea what he's talking about. If the goal is debt reduction, the Speaker ought to love the Affordable Care Act -- it cuts the deficit by over $100 billion over the next decade, and several hundred billion dollars more in the following decade.
"We can't afford" a law that reduces the budget shortfall? That's incoherent. What Boehner is arguing here is that he intends to cut the deficit by making the deficit worse. I don't expect the House Speaker to be a wonk, but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask him to at least think this through and understand the basics.
As for the politics, I'll go out on a limb and say this isn't a constructive approach to debt-reduction talks, and the White House won't be amenable to balancing the budget by taking away Americans' access to affordable health care. Call it a hunch.