This blog follows from my last (“Stand fast, Mr. President; 10-4-13). That statement cited the likelihood of the House passing a “clean” bill to pay our nation’s debts, if Speaker Boehner would simply allow an up/down vote on the matter. The projection was that all Democrat House members and a “small but sufficient number of Republicans” would produce the 218 vote majority needed for passage.This view was articulated by President Obama when he implored Speaker Boehner to move forward.
On a Sunday October 6th political talk show, Boehner refused. When pressed by the show’s host, the Speaker became agitated and adamantly asserted that the votes for a “clean bill” in the House “aren’t there”. The president’s pitch-perfect response was “prove it!!” by actually having a vote.
The Speaker has refused to budge and here’s why: He has good reason to believe that the president is right; i.e. that the 218 votes are there for passage. That is because at least 22 House Republicans have now gone on the public record as saying they would vote for the “clean” bill. Put that number together with 197 House Democrats and you get to 219.
Boehner’s assertion that “the votes aren’t there” flies in the face of both this existing public record and a head count of Democrat votes (see above). The Speaker may believe that the votes don’t exist. But that belief defies the facts on the ground. None the less, give the man the benefit of the doubt for just a moment. If he is actually right, by holding a vote and proving that the magic number of 218 can’t be reached, he has a perfect opportunity to embarrass the president and show him up as wrong. What a great chance to score BIG political points. That Boehner has bypassed it is telling; it is a sure signal that he KNOWS that the votes ARE there!!
In light of the foregoing, the most plausible and defensible view is that we have a Speaker who is playing a hyperpartisan political game with the nation’s economic wellbeing at stake. He is doing this to hold on to his position of power and to placate his minority Tea Party caucus. Under Boehner, the majority no longer rules in the House, elections do not matter, and responsible adult behavior like paying up on our country’s bills gets short shrift. So long as conditions like this persist, our democracy is in serious trouble.