Deidre Shesgreen reports:
WASHINGTON — With the government shutdown entering its third week and a debt-ceiling deadline around the corner, House Speaker John Boehner has an ever-narrower set of options to resolve an increasingly high-stakes fiscal showdown.
But the West Chester Republican seems on solid ground in at least one place: the speaker’s chair.
For the moment at least, Boehner has managed to unite his fractious Republican conference behind a hard-line – if shifting – strategy, winning plaudits from the rebel GOP faction that once tried to oust him.
“I think he’s doing a great job so far,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. Massie participated in an unsuccessful coup against Boehner in January, when Boehner narrowly won a second term as speaker.
Democrats have been harshly critical of Boehner, accusing him of caving in to the right wing to save his leadership position.
“I think that the speaker has to be more concerned about our country than he is about his job,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told CNN last week.
More moderate Republicans were less enthusiastic about the strategy – but not about Boehner’s leadership.
“He’s trying. He’s trying to do what he can,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus. “Unfortunately, I think there was not a lot that anybody could do to avoid this path. A bunch of us wanted to avoid it. But it’s where we are.”
How long that GOP harmony will last is unclear. Public opinion is quickly souring on the party’s position. And even Boehner’s strongest allies say they’re uncertain about his next move.
There’s no question the outcome of this standoff will go a long way toward determining Boehner’s political fortunes.
“It’s a defining moment in his speakership,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a longtime Boehner ally. “This is like the witching hour.”
In the pot, Cole said, is a mix of politically explosive ingredients – from Obamacare to debt reduction, “all basically converged into a single opportunity for either disaster or negotiated success.”
Speaker has ‘a strategy to get us to a strategy’
What began as a partisan feud over Republican efforts to tie continued federal funding to a dismantling of the 2010 health care reform law has now spilled over into a battle over raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
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