Will House Speaker John Boehner need to rely on more Democrats than Republicans in order to pass President Obama’s agenda through Congress – violating what is known as the Hastert Rule? It would be the sixth occasion since he assumed the speakership in 2011, and his seventh attempt. If a cancelled attempt to pass Obamacare funding on Tuesday is included, it would be the eighth.
Coming out of negotiations on Tuesday, Boehner hoped to propose what was essentially Democratic legislation that fully funded Obamacare and lifted the debt ceiling. Conservatives opposed the legislation as it did nothing to provide Americans relief from Obamacare. FreedomWorks and Heritage Action were going to include the vote on their annual scorecards. Yet Boehner was prepared to move forward nonetheless.
It was not until the President said he would veto the legislation – unless it was amended to include even higher levels of spending – that Boehner decided not to bring it to the floor for a vote.
Boehner and his closest colleagues in the House have been suggesting for weeks that they would rather pass a budget with Democrats than stand by the Republican base if it means confrontation with Democrats.
Prior to Tuesday, Boehner’s genuflections to Democrats included passing their legislation on five occasions. One was to increase the purview of the Violence Against Women Act to include people who were not women and to use it to give visas to illegal immigrants; a second was to pass billions in pork in a package intended for Hurricane Sandy aid (with eighty percent of Republicans voting against Boehner and the Democrats); a third was to pass $230 billion in stimulus spending, including $40 billion in green energy pork; a fourth involved an expansion of the federal government’s land management efforts; and the fifth was an effort to get the government more involved in the veterinary practice.
There was one additional failed attempt that never made it to a vote in April, when Boehner attempted to spend $4 billion on efforts to save Obamacare’s federally-managed high-risk pool for those with pre-existing conditions. It was pulled from the floor because Republican House members didn’t support it. (It was one of the “40” occasions that Boehner claims he voted to “reform” Obamacare.)
With Obamacare set to literally destroy lives –with premiums skyrocketing by thousands of dollars, and one Pennsylvania mother saying that she needs to choose between feeding her kids and paying for insurance – it seems incomprehensible that Republicans in leadership are not banging the drum each day with stories of the harm being done.
Establishment Republicans like David Frum argue that standing up for those suffering under Obamacare will hurt the party if it leads to any arguments with Democrats. They argue that Republicans like Boehner should just try to stay on the Democrats’ good side if they want to win elections. But the polling doesn’t bear that argument out. After six years of bungling by establishment Republicans, conservatives in Congress brought the President’s approval rating to a record low of 43 percent this week.
The Republican Party doesn’t have a good approval rating either, but that is mainly due to the fact that even Republicans can no longer approve of a party that doesn’t have a consistent identity. Conservative Republicans want to help Americans hurt by the President’s policies, while establishment Republicans just want to keep their jobs. Voters are confused by which faction represents the party.
If Boehner cannot find it in himself to lead a unified Republican Party in doing the right thing, he may find that he has more to worry about than staying on Democrats’ good side. He may find voters beginning to realize that it was he and his friends who were complicit with Democrats in passing the policies that have been hurting them in recent years.