Eager to signal that the turmoil and division of the 112th Congress is a matter of the past, House members re-elected Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio as speaker of the House and presented him with a ticket for a free trip aboard the Shell Oil drilling rig, the Kulluk, good for its next trip through the Gulf of Alaska.
“I hear that is a really beautiful place this time of year,” an emotional Mr. Boehner said. “I am overwhelmed.”
Mr. Boehner, in his opening address to the new House, said that he would make survival on wild seas and uninhabitable islands his singular focus for this session.
“You can put a price on the debt ceiling, but you can’t put a price on my and the country’s survival,” he said.
Mr. Boehner said he was grateful to those who helped orchestrate his re-election as speaker and his place aboard a diesel-filled vessel traveling in inhospitable waters during the bleakest winter months.
“This is a dream come true,” the speaker said, tearing up briefly as he watched images of the 28,000-ton drilling rig being tossed about by 35-foot waves. “This is something I will be able to talk about with my children and with your children - provided I survive.”
“If you have come here to see me off to the Gulf of Alaska,” he added, “you have come to the right place. Just show me where the door is.”
President Obama called Mr. Boehner to congratulate him, wishing the speaker well on his new adventure. Mr. Obama expressed confidence in the weather-worthiness of the Kulluck and the congressman, saying that if the Kulluck ran aground with Mr. Boehner aboard — which the president called likely — the thick steel hull would almost certainly protect the oil rig from damage and the “battleship-stout” constitution of the speaker “would hopefully” make him more than a match for the Arctic.
“I am glad to see the president is aboard with our program, finally,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate.
Some Republican House members who have been thorns in the speaker’s side for two years, seemed to soften their opposition to Mr. Boehner once it became clear that he would accept their offer to board the Kulluck at the earliest possible opportunity.
Tim Huelskamp of Kansas called the agreement reached with Mr. Boehner “an example of how compromise can work in this town.”
“I think there were a lot of lawmakers here who didn’t think the speaker would be willing to take the deal,” Mr. Huelskamp said. “But they didn’t realize how much he wants the speakership. And compared to the grief he has been getting here, a trip through hurricane-strength winds in the Gulf of Alaska will be a piece a cake. I’m not even sure he will want to come back.”
Page 2 of 2 - Representative Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican, urged New York’s well-heeled donor community to contribute to Mr. Boehner’s trip, saying he could not, in all good conscience, rest until he was sure that the speaker would have the means and the opportunity to make the long winter journey from the Beaufort Sea through the Bering Strait with the help of Royal Dutch/Shell’s accident-prone Arctic oil drilling program.
“This procedure that is laid out is fully acceptable,” Mr. King said, assuring Mr. Boehner that his colleagues “would take care of everything.”
“Fact is,” said Mr. King, “we are getting what New York and New Jersey need, and that is what counts.”
After finally getting through to Mr. Boehner on Wednesday morning, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey expressed confidence in the speaker’s decision in his characteristically blunt way.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics of how long I am going to hug John Boehner,” he told reporters in New Jersey. “But what I will tell you is there is no reason at the moment for me to do anything but embrace his trip to sub-zero climes.”
Mr. Boehner said he plans to spend the next few days shopping for a new parka, SmartWool socks, and a Davis Master sextant in preparation for his trip to the northern wilds.
Looking confident and fit, the speaker, his feet immersed in near freezing water and a tanning lamp trained on his face, told reporters that his door on the Kulluck would remain open to anyone who wanted to speak to him.
“Just because I will be far removed from civilization, that doesn’t mean I will be out of touch,” Mr. Boehner said, adding, “I am looking at this trip as a new beginning for everybody.”
Philip Maddocks writes a weekly satirical column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.