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Over the Cliff (and Into the Cooling Saucer)

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Well, John Boehner rallied his Tea Party caucus by offering them another $100 million in clean-energy hostages -- slashing federal loan guarantees for new technologies other than advanced vehicles. Combined with the threat that, otherwise, Boehner might actually have to pass a continuing resolution that would in fact keep the government operating -- by joining with Democrats -- he persuaded 24 Republicans who had voted against him two days ago to get in line.  

But, as Boehner well knows, the fundamental strategy of holding disaster relief hostage to cutting clean-energy innovation, and then voting for less money for disasters than Congress knows will actually be needed, cannot come close to passing in the U.S. Senate. All Boehner has accomplished is to persuade his Tea Party Caucus that if they just hold him hostage, he will reward them with ever more handsome bribes. (Boehner has apparently learned little from President Obama's forays into trying to reason with the radicals who are trying to dismantle the national government. But his moment will come. That's the nature of appeasement.)

Boehner then fed his extremists some more red meat -- allowing them to add even more pro-pollution provisions to legislation designed to prevent the Obama administration from protecting public health and air quality. The so-called TRAIN Act would block the EPA from cleaning up mercury, sulfur, soot, smog, and other pollutants. As newly amended, it would also strip Americans of a fundamental right promised when Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970: knowing whether their air is safe to breathe. The Clean Air Act promised that if the air is not safe, then the government would tell the public. As amended on the floor, the TRAIN act specifies that the government would no longer inform people whether the air is safe. It would set air-quality standards based on, not science and health, but the profits of polluters.

The House then passed the TRAIN act on a largely party-line vote -- four Republicans broke with Boehner, and 19 shameful Democrats caved in and joined him. But the TRAIN Act will go nowhere in the "cooling saucer" of the U.S. Senate, and President Obama has promised to veto it if it ever does get to his desk.

So what Boehner's go-with-the-extremists strategy has actually delivered is more legislative gridlock in Washington and more long-term, politically lethal votes for his caucus. Recent polling by Stan Greenberg shows that as a result of the extremism that has dominated the House over the past year and a half, 49 percent of voters in a series of swing House Districts currently held by Republicans say that they are unwilling to reelect their member of Congress.

So Boehner is taking his caucus over the cliff, and the fruits of this folly will, for the most part, die on the vine -- going nowhere in the U.S. Senate.

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