Above is my picture of Speaker of The House John Boehner. It is an empty wall. John Boehner is consistent, bland, a blank slate perfect for you to project your darkest fears. John Boehner is everything you don’t want him to be.
The left viewed him as a right wing ideologue and political hack, especially in the early 1990’s. He was one of the Gang of Seven that helped to take control of the House. But in recent years the new right and true believers have cast him as a villain, a compromising “Squish”.
Human beings are always more complicated than the easy caricatures.
This link is to the Pope addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Sitting behind the Pontiff, coincidentally, are the two highest elected Catholics in U.S. history. And it must be noted that both men, Vice-president Biden and Speaker Boehner, are devout Catholics. This is one of the most important moments in their lives. It was John Boehner who invited the Pope.
John Boehner. Most of us know John Boehner as the guy who passed out checks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, or as the first person of color (Orange!) to serve as Speaker, or as the Great Crier.
But John Boehner is more than that. He is a cloth coat Republican. There are plenty of stories of his upbringing and early life spent, starting at the age of eight, working in the family bar. He does possess core beliefs and values. He is also capable of hiding those values and principles.
The easy example is Obamacare. Congress has voted over fifty times to repeal, defund, or emasculate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The vast majority of those votes were simply for the record. These were politics at their most cynical. The Senate cast its last meaningless vote in July. The House will have to schedule another after Christmas at the latest.
But Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell don’t want a repeat of 2013. They allowed the unrepentantly cynical Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) lead the true believers to shut down the government over Obamacare. What a mess. And now Cruz, et al want to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood.
It is one thing to fake a fight over Obamacare. It is quite another to be forced, as he inevitably will be, to keep our government working by resolving the funding of Planned Parenthood. John Boehner, an institutionalist, did not sign up for this fight.
So there was Catholic, Human, Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner sitting behind his Pope, a man who knows what he believes and lives what he believes. One can only imagine the quiet reflection, the silent confession of the moment. John Boehner could no longer pretend that he didn’t know the consequences of his actions, the cynicism he has sown over 20+ years in Washington.
The Pope forced him to see himself.
Let us take a moment to wish the Speaker well. Let us also cut through the fog and see the reality of the PPACA.
As recently as two weeks ago I was approached by a banker who asked how a Republican President would eliminate Obamacare. I explained, again, that we aren’t going back. In ways big and small our system is forever changed. So if you are holding out, in some quixotic protest, from signing up for health insurance, get over it. The Shared Responsibility Payment (Tax) is too high to ignore.
It is time to ask your representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, how they will fix the PPACA and make it better. There are serious bills floating around Washington. Our representatives will be reviewing how long we can keep the policies that were purchased prior to 2014, how large is a small group, and which employees are really full-time and need to be covered. These and other tweaks affect all of us. Now is the time for real votes and serious collaboration. We can no longer afford cynical politics.
This has been an important week. For Jews, we had Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement. And our Catholic friends have witnessed a miracle. The Pope forced a blind man to see.