Sage, Ink: Boehner's Choice

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This cartoon was originally posted in October 2013 as Boehner faced the dilemma of reopening the government and avoiding default on the national debt (thereby risking his speakership) or appeasing hard-line GOP lawmakers in the House and safely preserving his role.

Two years later, it again seems relevant as Boehner yields his position and negotiates a bipartisan budget deal on his way out, thereby avoiding a government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling until 2017—allowing his successor Paul Ryan to take over with, as Boehner puts it, “a clean barn.” Russell has more:

The budget deal that John Boehner struck in his final days as House speaker is certainly a political gift to Paul Ryan, but you’ll have to forgive Ryan for showing a lack of appreciation. “I think this process stinks,” the speaker-in-waiting reportedly harrumphed as he walked into a meeting where Republicans were briefed about the 11th-hour agreement. “Under new management, we are not going to run the House this way.”

Well played, congressman. Ryan offered no opinion on the substance of the two-year pact, which increases federal spending by $80 billion and raises the debt ceiling, but his harsh assessment of how it came together was a necessary bit of political theater aimed at the group of conservatives [House Freedom Caucus] who have been most wary of his ascension to the speakership.