Last July, when the battle over the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling was just beginning to heat up, I offered some thoughts. I'm pleased to say that this week's vote by Congress to raise the debt ceiling brought this battle to an end in much the way I anticipated. The Republicans got nothing (exactly what Paul Ryan said they couldn't get) for raising the debt ceiling: no defunding or even any changes to Obamacare, something they were demanding as late as this month.
I argued back in July that if Democrats refused to be blackmailed either by the threat of a shutdown or a default, the people would be on their side, in no small part because President Obama had shown himself to be reasonable in the past whereas Congressional Republicans had over and over again shown themselves to be unyielding extremists. I predicted that, ultimately, John Boehner would have to rely on Democratic votes to pass a budget and to raise the debt ceiling.
And that's just what happened: "The 28 members of the Republican majority who voted for the [debt ceiling] bill -- a meager 12 percent -- was the lowest percentage for a majority on passage since the House began publishing electronic data on votes in 1991. It has to rank among the lowest ever for a body defined by strict majority rule." Paul Ryan voted for default, something that will come back to haunt him if he, somehow, becomes the Republican nominee for President in 2016.
House Republicans were so extreme that they forced Boehner to choose between political suicide -- as the American people would have overwhelmingly blamed Republicans had we defaulted -- and essentially turning the Congress over to Democrats, at least on this issue.
There's another issue that's ripe for a similar kind of House vote. Last year a comprehensive immigration reform package passed the Senate with a strong bipartisan majority. Boehner recently declared that the "deeply flawed" Senate bill has "has zero chance of success."
Given Boehner's dismissal of the Senate bill, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced his intention to do an end run around the Speaker, and use a discharge petitition to bring it to a vote in the House -- something that requires the signatures of a majority of House members. The time has definitely come for this maneuver.
Schumer's move is by no means a slam dunk. Even though he believes a majority of the House would vote yes on the Senate bill, that doesn't mean there are 17 Republicans (assuming all Democrats vote yes) who will vote to buck the Speaker as well as the Tea Party on this issue. On the other hand, not many believed that the budget/government shutdown/debt ceiling battle would come to an end with a surrender by Republicans.
House Republicans broke once. Here's hoping they do so again.
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