Boehner to Reid: "Go F—— Yourself"

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 2 2013 9:57 AM

Boehner to Reid: "Go F—— Yourself"; Why Party Cartels Matter

158862151
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 01: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (C) walks through Statuary Hall before entering the House Chamber to oversee a vote on 'fiscal cliff' legislation during a rare New Year's Day session January 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Your funny reporting of the day:

It was only a few days before the nation would go over the fiscal cliff, no bipartisan agreement was in sight, and Reid had just publicly accused Boehner of running a “dictatorship” in the House and caring more about holding onto his gavel than striking a deal.
“Go f— yourself,” Boehner sniped as he pointed his finger at Reid, according to multiple sources present.
Advertisement

An amusing anecdote, but what's at issue here is deadly serious—party cartel domination of the House of Representatives. The Senate had already passed a bill providing for a one year extension of Bush-era tax rates for people earning less than $250,000 a year. Harry Reid was trying to bait Boehner into allowing an open floor vote on that measure, hoping that a handful of House Republicans would join with the overwhelming majority of Democrats to pass it. But that's now how the House works.

The House operates on the "majority of the majority" principle, aka the Hastert Rule, that the Speaker only moves legislation to the floor if most of the members of his or her caucus support it. So even if Nancy Pelosi's majority in 2007 rested on members with pro-gun or socially conservative views, pro-gun or socially conservative legislation still couldn't pass because House Democrats wouldn't allow it to come for a vote. While the Senate is largely run by its pivotal members, the House is essentially run as a party cartel—by the leaders of the majority party on behalf of the views of the majority party.

This rule isn't sacrosanct. The McCain-Feingold bill passed in violation of the principle, and eventually so did the fiscal cliff bill. But even in those cases, the majority caucus makes a strategic decision to let itself get rolled. House Republicans didn't like the McCain-Feingold bill and didn't want to vote for it. But ultimately they didn't want to be the "bad guys" who were holding it up. So they allowed it to pass, counting on either the Bush administration to veto it (which they didn't) or the Supreme Court to largely undo it (which sort of happened) and away we went. But even though the principle can be violated on occasion, we should expect it to be upheld in general. Not just because Boehner likes it that way, but because there's no obviously superior alternative to it as a general rule of procedure. The predecessor to the Speaker-and-caucus centric House cartel dynamic was a weird kind of super-empowerment of the Rules committee that allowed it to arbitrarily bottle up proposals. 

You could say, as Reid did, that any given Speaker should just be more statesmanlike on any given issue and let the damn bill come to the floor. But clearly routinely ignoring the preferences of your caucus membership is not a viable option for a caucus leader. Another option would be to de-center the Speaker and make the House more like the individualistic senate except with over 400 individuals, a prospect that should make sensible people shudder.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.