Ten Miles Square

Blog

July 23, 2013 8:54 AM Hey, John Boehner: Wanna Make a Deal?

By Jonathan Bernstein

The Speaker (emphasis added):

BOEHNER: Well, Bob, I’ve been around this town for a little while, like you have — not quite as long — but around here, never, ever, ever is not usually a good prescription. The senators know, the Democrat senators know that this law’s not workable. They know it’s not ready. It was Max Baucus, Senate chairman, Democrat chairman of the Finance Committee, who said that this was a train wreck. They know it’s a train wreck, so I wouldn’t be so quick to suggest that they’re never going to take this up. Matter of fact, I would urge Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, put these two bills on the floor of the Senate to delay the employer mandate and to delay the individual mandate, and let’s see what happens.

You know what I bet Harry Reid would be willing to do? I bet he’d be willing — more than willing, he’d be thrilled — to make the following deal:

Every time the House votes to repeal or otherwise destroy the Affordable Care Act, Reid will call that bill up in the Senate.

And in exchange, every time Reid does that, he also gets to pick one Senate-passed bill for John Boehner to bring to the floor of the House.

Starting with, oh, say….immigration.

Oh, I should explain; I’m not just being snarky. The real point here is that the Speaker — or, really, the majority party, but in operational terms it’s the party leadership — really does absolutely control the floor of the House. It’s not quite impossible for something to get full House consideration if the Speaker doesn’t want it, but it’s next-to-impossible. Over on the Senate side, the Majority Leader has no such authority. Oh, sure, Reid gets to decide which bills to bring up…but he can’t control what gets offered as an amendment, which means anyone who has a bill that’s being ignored has the option to offer it as an amendment, even if it isn’t relevant to the bill under consideration. So if any Senator really wants to get a vote on something, that’s usually going to happen.

On the other hand, thanks to the full 60 vote Senate, Reid can bring something up without much fear of getting rolled. All he has to do is to hold 41 of the 54 Democrats. Boehner has no such protection; under normal procedure, anything that comes up in the House passes if it gets a simple majority. But don’t call that “majority rule” — remember, the only majorities that matter in the House are those that the majority party allows to operate. It’s majority party rule, not majority rule.

At any rate, what do you think of my deal? As Boehner says, “let’s see what happens.”

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.