Cold Water in the Tea Party Teapot: John Boehner Faces 'Long Shadow of 1994'

Despite huge gains for Republicans in the House and Senate on Election Night, reporter Jennifer Steinhauer was quick to pour some cold water into the Tea Party teapot in the paper's special Elections section on Republican Rep. John Boehner, the Speaker of the House in waiting: "As New House Speaker, Boehner Will Face Tough Fight and Tight Deadline."

According to her, Boehner is already facing a "contradictory" task with "no clear mandate from voters" that just made him House Speaker-to-be.

In leading his party to midterm triumph, Representative John A. Boehner, the next speaker of the House, is not at the endgame. He is at the beginning of the next and harder fight.

Relying on his decades of experience with the inner workings of the House, Mr. Boehner, of Ohio, now has less than two years to show that the Republican Party is the antidote to what ails Washington, with a discordant caucus, a stagnant economy, a hostile White House with veto power and the long shadow of 1994 all looming before him.

His promises on behalf of the new House majority - reducing the size of government, creating jobs and fundamentally altering the way the Congress conducts its business - are mostly as lofty as they are unspecific, and his efforts to legislate them into reality must be done with ambitious upstarts within his own party and a fresh crop of Tea Partiers, some of whom seem to believe that it is they, not he, now running the show.

The demands on Mr. Boehner from voters are many and not all consistent. There is a craving, polling shows, to see the current system upended, but preferably without gridlock or rancor. Voters want federal spending curtailed, but jealously guard costly entitlements. They angrily reject what is, but have no clearly articulated vision for what should be.

Indeed, Mr. Boehner and his party were delivered no clear mandate from voters, who, polls suggested, were rejecting a policy agenda more than they were rallying around one. One demand resonated loudly: the reduction of federal spending immediately, a daunting goal. Yet, among the first things that Mr. Boehner has said he will seek to accomplish are reversing cuts to the Medicare program and extending the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, steps that are hard to reconcile with a commitment to reining in the national debt.

Mr. Boehner, who will become second in line to the presidency in January, has responded to the contradictory forces that led to Republican victory with equally mixed messages.

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