Fracturing the Republican Coalition


Let’s consider recent bill to fund Superstorm Sandy relief. Let’s
look at the process that led to its passage. The vote in the
House was:

                yea  nay   total
  Republicans    49  179     228
  Democrats     192    1     193
  total         241  180     421

This is a clear violation of the so-called Hastert rule, which says
that the Speaker of the House should use his power to prevent the
House from passing (or even voting on) a measure unless it enjoys
support from a “majority of the majority” i.e. a majority of the
members of the majority party. The rule is named for former Speaker
Dennis Hastert, even though he inherited it from his predecessor,
Newt Gingrich.

This rule has been violated only twice in 15 years, which is also
twice in 15 days: once for the “fiscal cliff” vote on New Year’s
Day, and once for the Sandy relief vote on January 15th.

If these violations of the Hastert rule are the start of a trend, it
has tremendous significance. Mr. Boehner could decide he would
rather work with moderate Democrats than work with the extreme
elements of his own party. This would give him tremendous (but not
unlimited) power to decide what would and would not be enacted.