An Emerging Working Congressional Coalition?

Filed in National by on January 2, 2013

I think it’s possible, perhaps probable. I also think it’s the most overlooked byproduct of the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations.

I also think this means that President Obama has more leverage in upcoming fiscal negotiations than many progressives are willing to admit or have yet come to realize.

Allow me to explain.

Here is the roll call on the House vote to accept the Senate’s fiscal cliff bill. 170 Democrats voted yes. Several of the 16 no votes were from D’s who objected to some of the compromises on marginal tax rates. In other words, we’re not talking Blue Dog Dems here.

24 R’s from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania voted yes. 11 more R’s from from midwest heartland states Michigan and Ohio voted yes. 7 more from Illinois.

The R’s from New Jersey and New York are outraged that R house leadership did not allow a vote on the Senate bill providing aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy. They blame the leadership of their caucus. If I’m President Obama, I demand that the new Congress sends him legislation providing relief to states and victims of Sandy post-haste. My point is that, while these legislators are not necessarily ‘gettable’ on every issue, they are likely to be far more amenable to working across party lines than any tea party types. The Obama/Christie working relationship continues to bear fruit.

We haven’t even gotten to the composition of the new congress yet. Two more D’s in the Senate, and nine more D’s in the House. A total of 200 D house members, give or take a vacancy here and there. 200 plus…18 equals a majority. Plus, we now have precedent for breaking the so-called ‘Hastert Rule’, which required a majority of House R’s to approve a bill before it could even go to the floor.

President Obama and Joe Biden had to craft this fiscal cliff deal with the congressional cards they were dealt. I’m very pleased with what they were able to get out of the deal.

Guess what? As of January 3, the odds will have improved, markedly in my opinion, in their favor and our favor.

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  1. cassandra m says:

    This is pretty interesting, but presumes that “working”, “coalition” or even “working coalition” are things that the Rs are even interested in. I’ll cop to being overly cynical about the GOP in this thing. But in this they were largely stuck in a corner they painted themselves into, so voting to just get out of it was more self-preservation than anything else.

    The other way to think about this is what else is out there on the Obama agenda to work on where working coalition even benefits the GOP? I can’t think of anything.

  2. Political survival is one. Do congressional R’s in states with older populations like Pa. and NJ REALLY want to cut entitlements, like social security and Medicare?

    Do they REALLY want to march in lockstep with leadership that wouldn’t even allow for a vote on Hurricane Sandy aid?

    And all this assumes that the (all things are relative) more moderate Boehner retains his post over, say, Eric Cantor.

    You’re never gonna get the true believer tea party types. They’re the ones who voted against the bill. My point is that there are more than enough reps who have demonstrated their willingness to, at least on occasion, leave the reservation. Many of them voted for the Senate compromise.

    And their leadership continues to give them more reason to want to leave the reservation.

    We’re not talking a new era of Jacob Javits-type R’s or anything, I get that.

    But, politicians first and foremost want to get elected. The Tea Party Express has left many towns and, in some cases, entire states. I think there are more than enough R’s who are at least ‘gettable’ to enable Obama to cobble together a working coalition in the House. At least on stuff that matters.

  3. puck says:

    We’ve always had a working coalition in Congress as long as we put enough Republican elements in the bills. The House worked great in 2010 when it passed the full extension of Bush tax cuts. I’m sure we will also find a working coalition when we debate what kind of entitlement cuts we want.

  4. My point is that, with the new configuration, we’re more likely to do better in 2013 than we would have in 2012 or 2010.

  5. puck says:

    I agree. I didn’t mean to sound so downbeat. One of the many silver linings of the deal is the splintering of the GOP.

    Although… this year and next we may often wish we had taken better advantage of the expiration hammer. What will we have to trade this year that we could have gotten for free?

  6. socialistic ben says:

    What if Cantor takes over as Speaker? That guy has no interest in improving the country whatsoever. He wants power and a Fox consultant deal.

  7. In some ways, Boehner and Cantor have similar difficulties, only with different elements of the caucus.

    Cantor will have the firebrands, but will lose many of the pragmatists, who went along with Boehner.

    You can always exploit a splintered caucus if you know what you’re doing. In fact, that’s what Obama just did.

  8. pandora says:

    And we have Rep. Peter King calling out Boehner and other Republicans over Hurricane Sandy relief. Watch the video… he doesn’t rule out leaving the GOP (yeah, doubtful) and also calls on all the NYC big money donors to not give one penny to Congressional Republicans AND accuses them of using Christie when it suits them.

    “It’s absolutely disgraceful,” King said on CNN. “People in my party, they wonder why they’re becoming a minority party. They’re writing off New York, they’re writing off New Jersey. Well, they’ve written me off, and they’re gonna have a hard time getting my vote, I can tell you that.”

    King said that Republicans have no problem finding New York when they want to raise money. In light of Tuesday’s inaction, King said, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes to the National Republican Congressional Committee should have their “head examined.”

    King added that he may not support Boehner when he comes up for re-election as House Speaker. “As far as I’m concerned, my world turned upside down last night. So I am, right now, holding every vote in abeyance.”

    Oh my.

  9. Wow. You know what they say: “When your enemies engage in a circular firing squad, just stand back and watch.”

  10. cassandra m says:

    One path to a real working coalition (and I’m not yet convinced that there is anyone in the GOP caucus who is more interested in governing than in party discipline — it is the latter that got them their seats), is if Boehner is ousted as Speaker. He could emerge as the leader of a more “moderate” GOP caucus and if he can hold the 80 or so as his votes, he becomes the defacto power broker. But that presumes that there are GOP votes ready to “moderate” (I doubt it) and presumes that they give up on their party discipline to become more like Democrats (really?)

  11. socialistic ben says:

    that is just bluster. Let us not forget that Rep King is as Islamaphobe and a teabagger when he needs to be.

  12. socialistic ben says:

    Cassandra, if he is ousted as speaker, doesn’t that mean that the only bills that come up for a vote are the ones that the new Bagger in Charge deems crazy enough? a coalition wont mean anything if the wingnuts still control the agenda.

  13. Cass, regardless of who the Speaker is, the caucus has now splintered. Quite publicly, with more fallout to come.

    The ‘Hastert Rule’ helped enforce the so-called party discipline. It’s been breached now, which makes it easier to be breached in the future.

    The wealthy really HAVE had their taxes raised. Something like an additional $122K for those making over $1 mill a year. I predict that many of them will not be so generous in contributing to the GOP going forward. Tax avoidance is what they paid them for.

    I also know what I don’t know. I don’t know how far this GOP fallout will continue, but keep in mind that it began on Election Day. This is merely a continuation.

  14. Ben: The wingnuts can’t control the agenda if enough R’s side with the D’s. All of those procedural roll calls which merely were pro-forma straight party votes won’t happen any more.

    Plus, I think that you WILL see a few R’s flip if the wingnuts take over. Not enough to flip the House, but enough to enable the House to flip in 2014. Here’s why. The flippers will have more cover as D’s than as R’s having to face wingnut primary opponents.

  15. puck says:

    “The wealthy really HAVE had their taxes raised. Something like an additional $122K for those making over $1 mill a year. ”

    … as long as they make it in wage income. The BIG donors don’t earn wages and were expecting a much larger rise (to 39.6% in some cases) and it turned out much less. I don’t know who they should be more grateful to for that gift – was it more Obama’s idea or the GOP’s?

  16. cassandra_m says:

    The caucus is splintered on *one* vote and a vote that they painted themselves into a corner on. No doubt that the GOP is in disarray and no doubt that the House is dysfunctional. The latter has been true for a few years now. The Hastert Rule was breached because Boehner didn’t abide by it, which itself was something of an abandon ship measure.

    My rule is to not expect much of the Congressional GOP. I haven’t been disappointed by that and I don’t see any long term motivations for them to change or moderate. As long as they go back to safe wingnut districts and to threats of primaries from their right, I can’t find the incentives.

  17. You don’t need the congressional GOP. You need something like 20-30 of them on key votes.

    For an analogy, look how the Rethugs exploited self-styled ‘bipartisan’ D’s like Carper, Lieberman, Landrieu and Nelson to get their way in the Senate.

    You only need a few.

  18. socialistic ben says:

    dont you also need those votes to actually happen? my worry is that Boner will be replaced with a Nihilist and despite a majority support, nothing worthwhile will ever be allowed to be voted on…… unless i have House procedure wrong.

  19. Keep in mind that the Hastert Rule is not a House rule, it is a caucus rule.

    I guess the question is, who has the better chance of keeping the caucus in line.

    My prediction: Nobody.

  20. socialistic ben says:

    right, but who decides what gets brought to a vote? Could a hard-right speaker prevent things comming to a vote that would pass if they dont like what’s in it?

  21. The amount of power a speaker has is directly proportional to the degree of support the speaker has. He/she can’t act unilaterally. In fact, the Speaker is elected by a majority of the House, not just a majority of the caucus. I’m not honestly sure whether Boehner OR Cantor can get to a majority yet…

    And keep in mind that all House members are up for reelection in two years. They want to survive, and it will be tough for R’s to survive if they move even further to their right flank. The election taught many of them that.

  22. socialistic ben says:

    I disagree that these idiots learned anything from the election. almost half the House are in safe, conservative districts, where there only real threat is from the right. They have no reason at all to change their ways.
    Color me pessimistic, but I dont see how the situation improves.

  23. Ben, I don’t even care about 3/4 of the Rethugs b/c you’re right about them. My point is that there are enough of them from Pa, NJ, and NY ALONE to create a practical coalition on stuff like the debt ceiling.

    And, regardless of what parliamentary maneuvers a Speaker may try, a weakened speaker doesn’t have, say, the filibuster at their disposal.

    I’m not arguing that it’s gonna be a piece o’ cake, I’m just pointing out that it’s doable, especially if the R’s continue to destroy their own.

  24. socialistic ben says:

    all those PA, NJ, NY repukes didnt seem to be enough to make an easily passable vote happen on Sandy Relief.

  25. Because the Speaker blocked it at the last minute. Which is why they’re so enraged, which is one more key reason why they’re less likely to tow the R line.

    And the new congress starts tomorrow. The vote for Speaker should prove interesting…

  26. socialistic ben says:

    ok…. so what prevents a “Joker”-like speaker from blocking everything not Ruch-approved at the last minute for 2 years?

  27. C’mon, Ben. The Congress ends today. A weak, but right-wing, Speaker simply can’t delay EVERYTHING until the last minute of session. It only happens once every two years.

  28. socialistic ben says:

    i’ve learned over the past 4 years that there can be no bottom limit for my expectations of congress. The GOP will do anything and everything to fill both their pants, and everyone else’s pants with crap.

  29. Andy says:

    If Boehner was able to single handedly block the Sandy bill doesn’t that mean that the speaker controls the agenda?

  30. Andy, last night was unique b/c it was likely the end of this particular Congress. The new Congress is sworn in tom’w. So, I guess you could say that, last night, and last night alone, the Speaker controlled the agenda.

    From what I’ve read, many House R’s, including those from the states affected by Sandy, as well as House #2 Eric Cantor, were told by Boehner that the bill would be run.

    But, when the Speaker banged his gavel and walked off the podium, it was over. Unless Boehner changes his mind today. And he’s getting lots of pressure to do so.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. Christie, in particular, is really laying into Boehner:

    http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/christie_chronicles/Angry-Christie-slams-Boehner-for-.html

    Man, I’m liking 2013 a lot already.

  31. socialistic ben says:

    too soon. Crusader Against the Evil Brown People, Pete King has already rolled over and presented his soft belly to Boner.

  32. socialistic ben says:

    yeah….. now im really concerned about this. The deal for Sandy help will likely include offsets and cuts to everything that was saved in the Cliff deal. King and the rest dont have the morals to point out how it is using suffering to create different suffering, and the Dems will have to eitehr agree to getting rolled, or be the ones who deny help. Just watch.

  33. bamboozer says:

    The real winner here is Chris Christie who now comes off as good guy fighting the evil house leadership, Boehner is in free fall at this time and will crash land when he gets a challenge from an assortment of Tea Party radicals. But as noted the fabled Republican unity is shattered, at least in the short term, and the mighty Lord Norquist has been dealt a swift backhand from many house Republicans. It had to come, at some point the GOP would either have had enough from the royal lobbyist or just want their power back.