John Boehner is the Speaker of the House. He was elected to that post by the Republicans who won a majority of House seats in the 2010 elections. Now that the House has remained in Republican control, most people expect Boehner to retain the speakership. But there’s a special opportunity this time around for something different to happen.
The Democrats have gained about eight seats in the recent elections and now they are only 17 votes short of a majority in the House. If 17 moderate Republicans can be persuaded to vote with the Democrats to elect a moderate Speaker, that would change how Washington works over the next two years.
A moderate Republican leadership in the House, combined with filibuster reform in the Senate, would mean that moderates in both houses could work together with the White House to pass a deficit-cutting budget and then turn to a host of much-needed legislation such as immigration reform, campaign finance reform, and tax reform. By cutting the tea partiers and other right-wingers out of the loop, a centrist coalition could get a lot done.
Who are these moderate Republicans that the Democrats would woo? Are there any moderates left in the House GOP? There are in fact about 50-60 moderates in the Tuesday Group and the Republican Main Street Partnership who work together to pull the party toward the center. And of those, the Dems would only need the the 17 most likely to side with them.
It wouldn’t need to be a permanent voting bloc, just a temporary alliance to get the leadership elected. The alliance would be a center-left group as the Dems would need their entire left wing in all likelihood. But once the leadership were elected, it could try to pull as many votes from the right flank as form the left in order to pass particular pieces of legislation. The ruling bloc would shift as the two years went by and as various legislative issues were addressed, but it would never depend on the extremes of either party once the initial leadership vote was done.
Most moderate Republicans are at the fringe of their party so they don’t wield much power. They could be offered committee chairs in return for their allegiance. But one prominent moderate, Fred Upton of Michigan, is Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Rep. Upton might be an appropriate leader of the moderate Republicans and a weighty enough figure to be Speaker. And since he already has a committee chair, he would probably need to be offered the speakership to convince him to vote for… himself!
This moderate Republican switcheroo is too big a deal with too many people involved to be a secret negotiation. It will have to be done in the light of day. So call your Democratic or moderate Republican Congressman and tell him or her to reach across the aisle to form a coalition that can get Congress working again.
For an example of how just this kind of coalition was formed a few weeks ago in Albany, see this post.
And for the expanded version of this piece, see this.
And for a video on this, see this.