Well, now we know. Thanks to tireless work on behalf of Vice President Biden, President Obama, and Congressional leaders, the big bad Fiscal Cliff was officially averted. After a rousing show of Senate Bi-Partisanship, the ‘Fiscal Deal’ was also approved by the House 257-167.
Most pundits today are talking about the deal, and about how “disappointed” they are, or about how “terrible it was for the country. But I’m actually very VERY happy about last night’s House vote. It may have been the best gift ever delivered to the Obama administration, and to the country. Here’s why…
All but 16 Democrats voted for the bill, and that’s as expected because Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has a great relationship with her caucus. We all knew that Speaker John Boehner’s caucus was split, with a majority of them oppsing him at every turn. But what we didn’t know until last night, was exactly where those fault lines lie.
Now we do.
Boehner’s decision to cave and bring the bill to a clean vote was a total game-changer for the White House and for Democrats. Of the 257 yes votes, 85 of them were Republicans. This is it!! This is the group of people that actually listen to the Speaker, and most importantly, are willing to listen to others and put country before party. The official roll call tells this tale like the best of political novels. For the first time since the “Hastert rule” was enacted, a party caucus was knowingly split up by its leadership. As a result, we now see the House GOP for what it really is… a two-party coalition in which John Boehner is actually part of the minority. On one side, you’ve got roughly 150 members that grab all of the attention, and on the other side you have 85 members that want to WORK. 85 members that are (at least briefly) capable of putting the interests of the country above the sanctity of their party.
Many of those members are what you’d expect… blue state Republicans like New Hampshire’s Charlie Bass, or those that have their eye on future offices like Illinois’ Aaron Schock, knowing that bipartisanship is a necessary step were he to run for Governor or Senator of a bifurcated state. And some of them were just people that actually respect Speaker Boehner’s leadership and trust the decision of the caucus… the “old school” politicians. After 3 years of the Tea Partiers hogging the spotlight, we were suddenly reminded that the GOP isn’t completely over-taken… at least not yet.
Now sure, out of those 85 some of them would never do this again. They would never join up with Democrats to help the President. But there’s likely a good 40 to 50 of them that the public can now target to get our government in the right direction again. And as long as Boehner keeps his Speakership in the 113th, Congress will be able to pass important things like Immigration reform and simplification to the tax code.
Republicans and Democrats will always have differences, but we shouldn’t be so far apart that we would allow our country to go to ruins. Sadly, that faction is alive and well within the GOP… some of them care nothing more for the well-being of the United States as long as their narrow viewpoint is advanced. But what we learned on the first night of 2013? That’s not all of them. There are still reasonable, hard-working, SANE people in Congress that want this country to succeed, and are willing to compromise even if they don’t always agree with the views of others. There’s still people in the House of Represenatatives that want to legislate, and not just waste people’s time.
In normal voting procedure, the Speaker of the House does not actually cast a vote. But sometimes, when they think it’s needed (like then Speaker Nancy Pelosi casting a vote for the Affordable Care Act), they will vote. Last night, Speaker Boehner cast a vote, eventhough he knew that enough of the other members of the caucus would join Democrats. He knew the bill would pass, but he voted anyway. Why would the Speaker do that?
If I were a betting man, I’d say that Boehner’s vote was a signal. He’s communicating to the President and Senate that he’s one of the “good guys”. Or at least that he’d like to be.
But in order to be a truly good guy, Mr. Boehner needs one other thing… COURAGE. One vote is simply not enough to save the reputation of the 112th Congress. And letting bills like the Violence Against Women Act and vital aid for Hurricane Sandy victims die in the House is not courageous. It’s wrong. I hope the Speaker finds more courage in the 113th Congress, and FAST.