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Friday, November 16, 2012

 
Gridlock is all Boehner's fault

by digby

This post by Matt Yglesias is a must read.  I consider myself fairly well-informed on political process but this is something I did not realize:

The Reagan Revolution was enacted in 1981 by the GOP minority joining with a dissident faction of Boll Weevil conservative Democrats to pass bills. But under modern conditions, bills opposed by the Speaker of the House almost never make it to the floor. If Reagan had to negotiate compromises with Tip O'Neill rather than with a minority of O'Neill's caucus, he never could have passed some of his key 1981 agenda items.

Dennis Hastert formalized the new rules as the "majority of the majority" principle. For a bill to pass his House of Representatives, it needed two concurrent majorities—the support of both a majority of House members and the support of a majority of House Republicans. That had the effect of shifting the veto point in the House well to the right of the median house member. During the last congress, Speaker Boehner changed the rules again adopting the principle that he only wanted to move legislation that had the support of 218 Republicans which shifts the veto point way further to the right. That absolute majority principle is a common norm of procedure in parliamentary systems. Angela Merkel wants to pass bills through the Bundestag that can pass in principle exclusively relying on the votes of her own coalition. If you require opposition votes to pass your bills, your government is in constant risk of collapse. But those systems generally have fewer veto points outside the lower house of parliament so the practical impact isn't as gridlockerific.

At any rate, the point is that these kind of things are at least partially under Boehner's control and his decision-making about them is a huge driver of the odds of compromise. The House Republican majority isn't that big. If Boehner allowed Boll Weeviling a lot of stuff could pass that won't pass under the majority-of-the-majority principle, and there's stuff that can pass under majority-of-the-majority rules that can't pass under the absolute majority principle. Under the current rule, you're asking Obama to bargain not with the median House member (a moderate Republican) or with the median House Republican (by definition a mainstream conservative Republican) but with essentially a member of the far-right fringe. That's tough.

You learn something new every day.

I'm actually in favor of gridlock a good part of the time as I see our centrist political establishment doing the bidding of our plutocratic overlords. But it's very interesting to note that the good old days of TipnRonnie getting drunk on the Truman balcony together and hashing out a deal is largely out of reach because the real people that Obama has to negotiate with are Steve King and Virginia Fox. Somebody should alert the media.


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