Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When Bills Are Passing The House Despite the Majority

This sorta happened last night:

A very big thing happened last night in the House of Representatives. For the second time this month, Boehner broke the Hastert Rule. The issue was Hurricane Sandy relief, a follow-up vote to a smaller package approved earlier this month. It passed, but the important thing is how it passed:
Yeas: 241 (192 Democrats, 49 Republicans)
Nays: 180 (Rep. Jim Cooper + 179 Republicans)

Just what is the Hastert Rule? It's a nickname of the political concept for "Majority of the Majority," which states that the House Speaker will not allow a vote on a bill unless that bill has a majority of the majority party backing it.  It essentially kills the party in the minority to even bring up any bills that a small portion of the majority could and would support, because the majority leadership will cut off that outreach in a heartbeat.

For Boehner to allow a vote that required, NEEDED the minority party to pass is a big deal.  That it's the second such vote inside of two weeks (the "fiscal cliff" deal passed on New Years Day also broke the Rule). In a way, it questions the very need or existence of that majority party in the first place. 

In truth, this is not about how Boehner is breaking the Majority rule: Boehner is not the problem here.  This is really a sign of how dysfunctional and broken the House is when even the majority of the majority cannot be counted on to pass bills that are no-brainer "this has broad public support" deals.  There were enough Americans in favor of getting aid to Sandy victims.  A previous vote attempt that got dumped by the House GOP led to a massive public outcry and very public rifts between the two wings of the Republicans: the Populists (pretty much the only moderate force left in the GOP) and the Wingnuts (the Batsh-t Crazies).

If the GOP majority of the House continues to be obstructionist on key issues - the Debt Ceiling conflict is a big one, the planned Sequester is the other - are we going to see more votes that will pass with Democratic plus moderate support? 

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