President Obama ratcheted up the pressure on Speaker Boehner yesterday, saying that he had the power to end the government shutdown by allowing a straight up or down vote on the budget that the Senate has already approved.
However the president simultaneously portrayed the Speaker as a man losing control of his party. In a speech at a construction site in Maryland, Obama told the crowd that the “extremists” in the Republican Party were the ones responsible for the shutdown, and challenged the Speaker to stand up to them and allow a free vote on the budget:
“The only thing that is keeping the government shut down — the only thing preventing people from going back to work and basic research starting back up and farmers and small business owners getting their loans — the only thing that’s preventing all that from happening, right now, today, in the next five minutes, is that Speaker John Boehner won’t even let the bill get a yes-or-no vote because he doesn’t want to anger the extremists in his party. That’s all. That’s what this whole thing is about.”
It has been acknowledged both privately and publicly by both sides that a straight up-or-down vote on the budget would garner enough support from Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass, allowing the government to get on with the much more pressing task of negotiation the increasing of the debt ceiling. If the October 17th deadline is missed, the US risks defaulting on its loans, sending interest rates through the roof, and the dollar through the floor.
Unfortunately, Speaker Boehner and the Republican leadership have seen the direction of the party hijacked by the Tea Party caucus in both congressional chambers. It remains to be seen whether the embattled Speaker can regain control of his party, bring the extremists back into line, and allow Congress to get on with the very serious business of making sure the United States can still pay its way in the world before a deadline that inches closer and closer every minute that the government remains in partisan deadlock.