Budget fight leaves Boehner ‘damaged’ but still standing

Budget fight leaves Boehner ‘damaged’ but still standing

WASHINGTON - The debt and budget crisis that gripped Washington was the story of a Republican Party at war with itself.

Rebellious conservatives, over the objection of party moderates, tried to use a government shutdown in an unsuccessful assault on President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

But within the halls of the US Capitol, the budget showdown was a reminder of the weakness of House Speaker John Boehner, the moderate Republican who reluctantly led conservatives' push until it was clear that no solution would emerge from his fractured caucus.

Boehner emerges from the budget fight as a diminished leader with little ability to control a restive caucus whose conservative members tried to oust him from the speakership last year, analysts said.

Late Wednesday, the House passed a plan from the Democrat-led Senate to end the 16-day government shutdown and move the nation away from defaulting on its debts - a plan that essentially gave the conservative Republicans nothing.

It was widely seen as another legislative indignity for Boehner, the latest in a string of votes - on budget issues, hurricane relief and farm legislation - in which the House speaker had been unable to round up enough votes from House conservatives resistant to compromise.

"He has damaged himself. He has embarrassed himself," said Norm Ornstein, a congressional analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. "By any standard, he is a weakened figure."

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