JOHN BOEHNER is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Multiple news reports on Friday had the House speaker telling fellow Republicans he would never let the nation default on its debts, which was a relief to the world. But on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, he appeared to reverse course, telling George Stephanopoulos that “there are not the votes in the House” to increase the debt ceiling without concessions from President Obama.
Boehner’s comment was a head-scratcher, because there are almost certainly enough votes to raise the debt ceiling with no conditions attached. If the chamber’s Democrats were allowed to vote, they plus as few as 17 of the 232 Republicans could spare the nation the economic catastrophe that would follow a US bond default. Almost certainly, Boehner meant there are not enough votes among Republicans alone to raise the debt ceiling. Thus, the US economy is hostage to the perverse strictures of the “Hastert rule” — the hardball strategy under which bills go forward only if most members of the speaker’s party approve, and the views of duly elected members of the minority party are barely relevant. The Founding Fathers can rest easy: They set up a workable structure. It’s Dennis Hastert, Boehner, and other recent speakers — Democrat Nancy Pelosi largely adhered to the rule, too — who’ve messed things up.