THE BLOG
12/20/2012 10:52 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

Can Collapse of Boehner Plan Cause 'Realignment' in the House?

No, I am not suggesting that John Boehner (R-OH) and a group of Republicans switch parties, or even become Independents. That is not likely to happen.

But, the collapse of "Plan B" (B=Boehner) provides an opportunity to make the House of Representatives functional again.

Here is how it could work. In the next Congress, Democrats hold 200 seats. That means that only 18 Republican votes are required to pass a given piece of legislation.

Or, to keep John Boehner as Speaker, if Democrats were willing to provide their votes to Boehner as well.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Boehner and 20-plus Republicans brought a compromise fiscal cliff deal to the floor. That deal would have to exclude items truly obnoxious to Democrats, such as the chained-CPI for social security, and include other items such as the debt-ceiling extension, unemployment insurance, the $50B for infrastructure, and the ~$60B for Hurricane Sandy relief.

For those 20-plus Republicans, it could be enough to include the $400,000 cut-off, the $1.2T revenue goal, and the reduced spending the president offered minus the Social Security change.

If 20-plus Republicans voted for that package, the quid-pro-quo would be for the Democrats to vote along with those same Republicans to keep John Boehner as Speaker. Boehner would get to keep his House Chairs (so long as they voted with him!).

This would lead to a new governing coalition in the country, at least for the next two years. The "gang of 20" would certainly be primaried by the right wing, but traditional Republican money ought to have a great incentive to rush to their defense, starting immediately, and to refrain from funding organizations such as the Republican National Committee and the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee.

What does John Boehner have to lose by doing this? Not much. He has at most one more term beyond the next Congress as Speaker anyhow.

On the positive side, Boehner would have a much more pleasant job, wielding a lot more power than he currently enjoys. Instead of tanking the country, the outcome of the policies might provide him a decent legacy.

Even more profoundly, he would have a chance to begin the remake the Republican brand by actual legislative achievements -- sometimes with his Republican majority supporting him, sometimes with the "gang of 20-plus" along with the Democrats.

With Boehner in this position, for example, comprehensive immigration reform could pass. Knowing that it is going to pass may stimulate some of the Republicans to vote along with it anyhow so as not to be on the wrong side of demographic history.

Democrats, and the country, are far better off with a Speaker Boehner for whom they vote, than a Speaker Cantor who will lead us all into the abyss.

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