Ten Miles Square


April 11, 2013 12:59 PM The House Republican Majority Gets Rolled, Again

By Sarah Binder

Kudos to the NYT’s Derek Willis for catching the latest Hastert Rule violation on the floor. A majority of the House Republican conference was rolled when the House voted to suspend the rules and pass Democrat Rush Holt’s (D-NJ) bipartisan bill to expand federal support for preserving American battlefield sites. Requiring a two-thirds vote for passage, the House adopted the bill by a vote of 283-122: All Democrats voted in favor of the bill, with Republicans spliting 101 in favor and 122 opposed. The bill reauthorizes a federal grant-making program for the protection of Civil War battlefields and extends the program to Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battle sites.

Is this minor bill worthy a Monkey Cage post? Maybe not. But it’s certainly an important bill to Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska) who joined Holt as an original sponsor of the bill. (I’m not aware of any Revolutionary War battlefields in Nebraska, but Fortenberry is a Civil War buff and a member of the Congressional Battlefield Caucus. So there you go: Members’ backgrounds matter.)

So why the majority roll?

First, the House has previously passed Holt’s bill, each time by voice vote. This time, a Republican supporter of the bill from Virginia requested a recorded vote, perhaps to signal to senators the bill’s bipartisan support. If supporters knew that the majority might be rolled, perhaps that would provide an even stronger signal to Senate Democrats seeking floor time for the bill. More likely, supporters cared most about establishing support for the bill: Doing so by recorded vote would generate more attention for their cause.

Second, Republican opposition was no doubt generated on the right by Heritage Action’s decision to score the vote when it rates members’ voting records for 2013. On such a low salience bill, no surprise to see a majority of the GOP conference vote against the bill to help brand themselves as true conservatives. (I suppose a true “conservative” would favor conserving historical sites, but whatever.) When I gin up a simple model of Republican votes on the bill, not surprisingly more conservative GOP were more likely to vote against the bill, even if their state is home to an 1812 or Revolutionary war battle site. (I count as “more conservative” the two dozen or so GOP who voted against the leadership on a set of high profile votes this year.) Meanwhile, GOP from districts with greater Obama support were more likely to vote in favor.

If there’s anything interesting at all here … it’s the potential impact of the Heritage warning on GOP from electorally marginal districts. As simulated in the figure to the right (in blue), GOP with comfortable electoral margins were more likely to vote for the bill than their colleagues (in red) who barely squeaked into office last November. (I’m not color blind, just trying to be historically sensitive.) To be sure, most GOP opposed the bill, as captured by the low simulated probabilities of voting for the bill. But if the Heritage warning mattered, it appears to have had its greatest effect on marginal GOP—presumably those more likely to be looking for opportunities to bolster their conservative credentials. We tend to say that all members run scared. For the handful of GOP in marginal seats, they’re running even harder.

Finally, this week’s Hastert rule violation suggests that rank and file majority members might not necessarily care about being rolled, especially if the party’s broader reputation is not at stake. (Did GOP leaders know the vote would be tagged by Heritage before they allowed it to be placed on the suspension calendar?) The roll call vote provided a presumably unexpected opportunity for GOP to show their conservative bona fides by opposing a bill that would authorize additional federal spending. It was an easy vote and beneficial for Republicans seeking to burnish their conservative appeal and handy as well for GOP aiming to moderate their image. And so far as I know, veterans groups sat out the vote—having no active members who could recall their service in these wars.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Sarah Binder is a professor of political science at George Washington University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.


  • clarence swinney on April 13, 2013 12:25 PM:


    1945-1980, we taxed Wealth to pay down wwii debt.
    It will be necessary to pay down Conservative 16,000B Debt most incurred since 1980 by Conservatives.

    Reagan not Congress submitted 8 budgets
    Total-over 7000 Billion for 8 years.
    Prior 50 years we spent 6066 Billion
    Congress cut his total dollars requested by small amount.
    Reagan whined his budgets were dead on arrival
    All presidents budgets are adjusted in Congress.

    Carter last budget spent 575B and ended with a debt of 917B

    Reagan cut revenue by 750B across the board income tax cut.
    Larry Speakes his OMB director wrote in his book “Speaking out”
    the tax cut was a trojan horse to coverup Reagan 60% cut for the richest

    The 750B individual “income” tax cut increased “income” tax revenues by 140 Billion.
    That tax cut certainly did not pay for itself.

    Reagan Record
    Increased spending by 80%-deficits by 110% and debt by 189%
    He cut Carter 218,000 per month job growth by 24%

    Bush II
    Increased spending by 90% --debt by 112% (doubled)--deficit from surplus to 1400B
    Worst job creation since Hoover—31,000 per month—2 dumb wars--
    Since 1980 three Conservative presidents increased spending from 575B to 3500B(less wjc itsy bitsy)
    Deficit from surplus to 1400B—Debt from 1000B to 10,000B—Jobs from Carter 218,000 per month to 99,000. Initiated our involvement in 10 foreign conflicts.