John Boehner's budget battle choice: Shut down the government or himself

Perhaps lost in the swirl of baseball openers, Final Four weekend, unemployment falling to a two-year low in March at 8.8 percent and people getting beheaded in Afghanistan because of the reported burning of a Quran in Florida last month, is that a week from today Uncle Sam will shut down and freeze federal benefits and services unless Congress finalizes and approves an agreement to keep the government funded and functional.

Just an aside while I catch my breath, but the previous sentence may have set a Guinness world record for most words (71). At least it was a complete sentence. But I digress.

Right now some $33 billion in spending cuts, comparable to the New York Yankees’ payroll, is on the table for the current fiscal year. Which hardly is in the same ballpark as the $61 billion the Tea Party wants in cuts, but close to a more moderate GOP position.

All of which leaves House Speaker John Boehner in a rib-cracking vise, which could put a serious crimp into his golf swing.

To maximize the Republicans’ electoral chances in 2012, Boehner has to appeal to independents and moderates by compromising with Democrats on the budget. But he also has to appeal to the Tea Party wing of the GOP, if he wants to avert a revolt against his leadership, by refusing to compromise with the Dems and allowing for, if not downright encouraging, a government shutdown.

A real Sophie’s choice if you ask me. A decision so tough it likely has ramped up Boehner’s daily consumption of Camels and red wine. At least the latter is good for his heart, if not his liver.

Since I get paid to pick sides in the world-famous Can You Beat Zeke? contest, I’ll broaden my reach and pick what option Boehner is going to take.

I agree with some political pundits who feel that Boehner’s top priority is staving off internal rebellion. After all, revolutions normally doesn’t work out all that well. Just ask France’s Louis XVI or Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak the next time you bump into them. For Boehner, that likely means shutting down the government.

Hope I’m wrong. Then again, like Michele Bachmann and Bill Maher, I’m pretty much infallible.

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