Remember that, when I talk about cleaving the Republican Party in two, I am looking at a kind of de facto situation and advocating that we formalize it so that it can work efficiently. I see that the House of Representatives cannot function on even the most minimal level so long as the “majority” is made up of Republicans. Look at the appropriations process:
“I’m a process guy, I believe in the process … and it goes for naught,” said appropriator Steve Womack of Arkansas. “We end up with continuing resolutions, and a lot of things we’ve done in our appropriations work is pushed aside.”
Appropriators pass bills with bipartisan cooperation through the committee and then watch them flounder on the House floor, where spending levels mandated by the sequester and the House-passed budget resolution are too deep for Democrats and some Republicans and not deep enough for others.
They watch their Republican peers vote for amendments to appropriations bills on the House floor that appeal to the far-right contingent of the party and then vote against final passage.
What’s more, Republicans on the Appropriations Committee feel the odds are stacked against them, with nothing likely to improve until their leaders agree to make some changes.
From their standpoint, and the standpoint of GOP aides familiar with the process, the chief reason appropriations bills can’t pass the House now is because of an unworkable topline number.
“We’re losing votes on all sides,” said veteran House appropriator Tom Cole of Oklahoma.
House Republican leaders could empower their four members serving on the bipartisan, bicameral budget conference committee — including Cole — to work with the Senate on coming up with a new, higher number, one that Democrats could also stand behind.
Should that happen, leaders would likely face another choice: Will they commit to bringing measures to the floor that forgo, in the words of one GOP aide, “the obsession with getting to 218 Republican votes?”
“If we’re gonna pass a Republican budget that’s largely or entirely with Republican votes, we’re gonna need 218 Republican votes to pass the appropriations bills that conform with the Republican budget. It’s pretty basic,” said appropriator Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. “But a lot of members are voting for the budget and then voting against appropriations bills.
“Bipartisan coalitions are going to have to be assembled in order to get these things done,” he concluded.
To paraphrase what Rep. Charlie Dent is saying, the Republicans are incapable of passing spending bills that conform with their own ideology, their own budget numbers, or the spending levels set by sequestration. As a result, their only option is to keep punting by passing continuing resolutions that are agnostic about priorities. They simply cannot govern.
The only way to solve this problem is to recognize that the only functional majority in the House is bipartisan and dominated by Democrats. That’s the coalition that avoided the fiscal cliff, that provided emergency relief after Superstorm Sandy, that reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, and that ended the government shutdown and avoided a default on our debts. It’s the coalition that can pass immigration reform, that can pass farm and transportation bills, and it is the only coalition that can pass appropriations bills to avoid the full brunt of the coming sequester cuts in 2014.
All the coalition needs is a willing Speaker. The Republicans are slow learners, but the logic of this is incredibly compelling, and time will continue to drive this point home.