The Rachel Maddow Show | December 20, 2012
>>> there is breaking news to report tonight out of washington. strange breaking news out of washington. within the last hour republican house speaker john boehner appears to have completely lost control of his own caucus. a dramatic turn of events as the white house and house republicans were trying to negotiate a plan to avert the across-the-board tax increases and deep spending cuts looming on january 1st , which is just 12 days from now. mr. boehner planned to hold a vote tonight on his own john boehner house republican plan to avert the growth-killing taxes and cuts combination that the cbo says will put us into recession again in the new year. his self-titled plan b , which has nothing to do with emergency contraception but rather was basically just a wish list of conservative ideas, his plan b was a vote to preserve tax cuts for all income below $1 million. passage of the plan was essentially supposed to be a sign of republican unity against president obama . is in other words, we have our plan, we'll just go ahead and pass that, and that'll put you on the spot. the burden to get something done is going to be laid in the lap of president obama and the senate democrats because look at how unified we house republicans are behind our speaker. well, just about an hour ago john boehner was forced to pull his own plan off the floor because it turns out he did not have the votes from his own side to pass it. he didn't have enough republican votes to pass the republican plan. after it was clear that he did not have the votes speaker boehner called an emergency republican meeting to twist the arms of his own members. at one point republican senator rob portman of ohio was called in to help mr. boehner in the arm-twisting department. but it was ultimately to no ava avail. he could not convince his own side. john boehner canceled the vote. then he put out a statement saying it's now up to democrats to figure it out. and then the house went into recess and house republicans started going home for christmas .
>> mr. chairman, you're close to the speaker. you serve with him on the education committee. does this feel like defeat tonight, when he could not cajole enough votes out of his caucus?
>> well, yeah. that's exactly what it is. and he understood it, and he said have a merry christmas , we'll see you after christmas .
>> we'll see you after christmas . yes, this was a defeat. this woos nas not how it was supposed to go, but that is what happened in just the past hour. joining us is luke russert , nbc news congressional correspondent. luke, thanks for being here on short notice. appreciate your time.
>> what a story, rachel . happy to be here. i've never seen anything like this in my 3 1/2 year on capitol hill . very rare moment. and talking to people whief been here for a while, this doesn't happen very much.
>> what are your sources telling you about what happened inside that emergency republican caucus meeting? what happened in there?
>> so it's interesting. it was a meeting that we were all told was to try and corral votes, but what it ended up being is john boehner in a very somber manner went before his conference and said i don't have the votes. he made a plea, sort of saying we really need this, we need this to keep our negotiating power with president obama . folks inside the meeting just shook their heads. at one point representative mike kelly from pennsylvania got up, stood in front of the entire house gop conference, and started screaming, saying they needed to rally around the speaker, they needed to stay unified, this was their moment, and folks just shook their head and they acknowledged they didn't have the votes, at which time john boehner said, well, all right, hopefully we'll see you after christmas . and rachel , i can just tell you that the last time anything close to this happened was during the debt limit. boehner had a thursday vote. he had to scrap it. but it wasn't one that had this much significance. and it wasn't one that was deemed -- it was more controversial than this one. you have to understand, there were sweeteners put in for this bill to get that conservative support. aside from the ones you mentioned that preserved -- eliminated cuts to defense and preserved d.o.d. you had the ones you mentioned about the food stamps and the meals on wheels. but also the tax rate a million or above. what we learned tonight is it doesn't seem to have any effect on the house gop conference, that inaction means tax cuts go up for everybody. that message has been completely lost. it's been diluted by folks on the real right, the heritage action people simply saying you cannot support this because it's a bad deal and it amounts to a tax increase. it's really something wild in all the history i think when we look back on this in terms of the growth of the republican party and just very much who's in charge right now.
>> in terms of who is in charge right now, is that what's going on here, luke? i mean, we saw a statement issued by one of the conservative members who got booted off his committee assignments earlier this month by speaker boehner , essentially crowing that this was a conservative victory, that there has been this failure. i just got a note about congressman steve latourette from ohio saying tonight we're not going to be here until after christmas , maybe we don't come back at all this year. it's unbelievable. this is horrible. i'm angry. i'm sad for my friend the speaker. i'm sorry for the country." it seems like there's a schism going on within the conference. is speaker -- is john boehner 's speakership at risk?
>> we don't know. i would say that probably not. that what you often see is when you have moments like this the real conservatives like to gloat. but what you do see is a real problem in him being able to get together a coalition that can deal with this very large problem that's on the horizon, this big drop-off. we won't say the word you don't like. but here's one thing that i find very fascinating. i spoke to some members who are walking out of there. and they said, well, if this was really the last possible deal we could get, maybe we would have supported it. but they did not want to go along with this sort of kabuki theater , if you will, this sort of dancing around the issue. and they knew the senate was going to reject it. so that leads me to believe that there still is some faith in john boehner . but make no mistake. the question about whether or not he can retain his speakership will certainly be asked of a lot of his colleagues because this was deeply embarrassing. and the question now moving forward is if in fact you're going to let harry reid and president obama come up with some sort of compromise and you're essentially removing yourself from these negotiations, removing yourself in the republican point of view what happens in this? does john boehner have to violate the hastert rule, which is you have a majority of the majority for anything you put on the floor. does he put something on the floor that can only get 45 gop votes and depend on nancy pelosi to bring it across the finish line? that would be something that i think a lot of conservatives would find extremely troubling.
>> this is just -- imagining what might happen, every potential eventuality from here, is really, really weird. but what just happened tonight tops it all in pure unexpected weirdness.
>> absolutely. and watch out for the dow future markets . a lot of the economic republicans, those establishment guys who are the wall street guys, they are very worried tonight. they think they this could have a very dismal effect on the markets tomorrow. an absolutely wild night , rachel . you don't see too many of these.
>> congressional correspondent luke russert . it's great to have you here tonight. thank you so much. appreciate it. you think about how the republicans must be thinking about whether or not john boehner can stay as their speaker. think about this. you're president obama . you've got to negotiate with somebody in congress in order to get this done. yes, he'll work on something with harry reid now and try to take over from the senate, but in terms of negotiating with the house to get something passed there, who do you talk to? when you work something out with john boehner , it does not manifest as the house doing what john boehner says they're going to do. why would you keep negotiating with a guy who can't deliver what he is negotiating for? why would you keep talking to him? i don't know what happens next. stay with us.