Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

So much for competent governance, Speaker Boehner?

Remember after the election, when John Boehner and Mitch McConnell promised to execute a no-drama resolution to the fiscal 2015 budget crunch, taking the specter of a government shutdown completely off the table as a way to demonstrate Republican competence and maturity as the governing majority?

That was so last week.

With funding for the government due to expire at midnight tonight, Boehner was forced this afternoon to cancel a vote on a critically important funding bill because he could not rally enough votes to pass it.

Not surprisingly, a good number of Republicans had balked at supporting the bill because it did not attempt to challenge President Obama's executive action on immigration. They were also unhappy -- and justifiably so -- that Boehner was forcing them to vote on a 1,600-page bill that had been unveiled only last night, giving them no time to read it.

To try to lure some of those Republicans back, the speaker added language to the legislation that would weaken Wall Street post-recession reforms and once again allow bankers to use taxpayer-guaranteed funds in high-risk, high-return derivatives trading.

However, that set off a revolt by Democrats, who refused to surrender to what Nancy Pelosi called blackmail.

In remarks from the House floor, Pelosi recalled the days of the financial meltdown of 2008, and a conversation she had with Ben Bernanke, then chairman of the Federal Reserve. "He said, 'If we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday.' We will not have an economy by Monday. By the policies that were in place at that time, we were taken to a place where we wouldn't have an economy.... And here we are in 2014 going down the same path."

"It's back to the same old Republican formula," she said. "Privatize the gain, nationalize the risk. If you succeed, it's in your pocket. If you fail, the taxpayer pays the bill. It's just not right."

She also pointed out a second abomination smuggled into the funding bill in negotiations between the House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. That provision lifts the cap on individual contributions to political parties from $32,400 a year to $324,000 a year, which would give wealthy donors even more influence over politicians in this country, or $648,000 a two-year election cycle.

It's telling that these are the things that some of our leaders believe are so important that they must be smuggled into a must-pass spending bill. And while the chances are still good that Congress will manage to pass something in the next few hours to keep government functioning, the brinksmanship and policy choices on display do not bode well for the next two years.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.