Boehner hands Democrats another gift: Reviving their 2012 coalition

Republicans may succeed in dooming immigration, ENDA and anything else -- but a lot of voters will take notice

Topics: employment non-discrimination act, Immigration, Immigration Reform, Voting Rights Act, vawa, Violence Against Women Act, Hurricane Sandy, Fiscal cliff, Healthcare.gov, John Boehner, 2012, 2014 elections,

Boehner hands Democrats another gift: Reviving their 2012 coalitionJohn Boehner (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

In the first few weeks of the 113th Congress, while collective memory of the November election was still fresh, Speaker John Boehner responded to Senate action on a bunch of different legislative items — the “fiscal cliff” tax bill, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy, etc. — by (eventually) putting them on the House floor and getting out of the way.

The pattern suggested to Democrats that the key to forcing action in the Republican House was to build bipartisan coalitions for certain key bills in the Senate and then relying on political pressure — constituent and interest group activism, media narrative building — to overcome the GOP leadership’s reflexive inertia.

But Dems took the wrong lesson from those early weeks. It wasn’t just that Boehner et al. were more responsive to public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a losing election (though they probably were) but that the items they folded on were all essentially deadline driven.

VAWA authorization had lapsed. A hurricane hit the East Coast. All of the Bush tax cuts were about to expire. That’s the pattern they should’ve recognized. The reasoning that led them to believe it extended to proactive issues was misguided, and failed them pretty exquisitely when the House shrugged off Senate-passed immigration reform legislation.

You Might Also Like

Fortunately for Democrats, the political logic of leaning on the House is solid, even if it doesn’t result in substantive accomplishments. It clarifies who the villain is. Like a game of Clue, but with a single culprit, crime scene and weapon. The GOP, in the House, with the speaker’s gavel.

That’s why it’s a pretty big deal that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act appears poised to pass the Senate this week, and that the GOP is poised to kill it in the House.

“The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel told TPM. (There is, of course, precious little evidence that non-discrimination laws generate excessive lawsuits.)

Just like there’s no immigration reform cliff, there’s no ENDA cliff, and no equal pay for women cliff, and, thanks to the Supreme Court, no Voting Rights Act cliff. By sitting on their hands if (or after) these items clear the Senate, House Republicans don’t invite automatic disruption like a government shutdown or default on the debt. They preserve the status quo undisrupted.

Big Senate bills in and of themselves won’t shake House Republicans out of their paralysis. It’s unrealistic to expect the House will address all of these issues and it’s possible they won’t address any of them. But the constituent groups to whom these issues matter — Latinos, the LGBT community, women, African-Americans and young people — won’t be confused about who killed them.

The flip side of the GOP becoming a whites-only party and crossing its fingers that Healthcare.gov fails is that Boehner is doing his damnedest to help Democrats revive their 2008 and 2012 coalitions in the coming midterm.

Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is Salon's political writer. Email him at bbeutler@salon.com and follow him on Twitter at @brianbeutler.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...