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Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner has said that he doesn't want to leave his likely successor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a "dirty barn."
But while some Boehner allies harbor visions of completing controversial big ticket items while Boehner still wields the gavel, the likelihood of a brisk legislative schedule this October is slim.
The list of things Congress needs to get done by the end of the year is significant. There’s raising the nation’s debt limit, providing needed funds for the country’s highways, a reauthorization of the Export-Import bank and finishing some routine tax legislation, just to name a few.
While Boehner may want to complete these before he leaves his job at the end of next month, there are limitations on just how much he could do on the floor.
Outside conservative groups are ratcheting up the pressure not to complete most of this legislation while the House's leadership team remains in limbo.
“Allowing Boehner to negotiate important legislative priorities would send the signal to everyone -- especially disaffected conservative primary voters -- that no one is listening, and that the new leadership would be the same as the old leadership," said Dan Holler of the influential group Heritage Action, which keeps a scorecard on each member's conservative record.
There is also growing worry from leadership aides that their bosses could face lasting political consequences if they move too fast on big-ticket items.
Since Boehner has proved deeply unpopular with a group of forty House conservatives, if he moved on legislation, it could put McCarthy, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Pat McHenry (R-NC) and others who are trying to move up the food chain in a difficult position: Back Boehner or try and block him on the floor?
Boehner tells NBC News he’s “not worried” and that he still intends to try and clear the deck for his successor.
“There are a number of issues that we are going to try to deal with over the coming month but I am not going to change my decision making process in anyway," he said. "It’s just a matter if there is a way to get some things done so I don’t burden my successor, I am going to get it done.”
Not lost in the shuffle are the political limitations on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Senate can’t move as quickly as the House, and it’s unknown if McConnell would be willing to pass legislation that came from Speaker Boehner after he has given up the gavel.
Leadership aides agree that the biggest gift Boehner could give McCarthy is an extension of the nation’s debt limit.
The issue proved especially difficult for Boehner in the summer of 2011. The newly-minted Speaker was tested by conservatives in his Conference, and the nation nearly defaulted on its debt till a last minute deal was forged by Harry Reid, Boehner and McConnell.
If Boehner could get an extension of the debt limit through the presidential election, it would alleviate McCarthy the stress of dealing with an issue out of the gate that could have catastrophic consequences for the nation’s economy. Yet, moving on the issue would anger conservatives who could call on McCarthy to fight it in exchange for their support.
The issue most likely to be completed is the Highway Trust Fund. It’s a legislative item that routinely gains bipartisan support, and there is a strong desire from congressional leaders to get it done.
Lastly, everything done on Capitol Hill inevitably gets reflected through the prism of the GOP presidential primary. With four GOP Senators running for president, a speedy and meaningful October is difficult to envision.