The Easy Solution to John Boehner's Vote Math Problem

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Sept. 27 2013 7:27 AM

The Easy Solution to John Boehner's Vote Math Problem

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WASHINGTON - MARCH 17: We've got this.

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Jake Sherman and Josh Bresnahan have an informative rundown of the GOP caucus' latest thinking on funding the government and raising the debt ceiling, in which they make it clear that unfortunately the do the right thing for the country and the world option doesn't seem to be on the table. In fact, if you take Sherman and Bresnahan's reporting seriously it appears that the consequences for the American people and the world at large aren't factoring at all into John Boehner's thinking or Eric Cantor's thinking or rank and file members' thinking. If I'd been writing that piece, I would have highlighted more strongly the role that kind of utter indifference to human welfare has played in unleashing some of the whip-counting dynamics that Politico is reporting on.

At any rate, this is where they end up:

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Republicans, once again, faced restive ranks when it came to lifting the nation’s borrowing limit. Republican insiders say they could have reached the 217-vote level to pass the debt-ceiling bill, but said they were not there yet. There were definitely skeptics about the GOP leadership’s debt ceiling package. Some Republicans thought it didn’t deal seriously enough with the debt — its centerpiece policies were a one-year delay of Obamacare and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The key thing to note about this is that this vote math difficulty arises entirely from the fact that the House leadership is seeking a bill that can pass with Republican votes. Since most Republican members seem to have a completely unreasonable view of the debt ceiling issue, a determination to rely on GOP votes leads to a lot of unreasonable bills. But Boehner is Speaker of the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives contains many Democratic Party members. If Republicans won't do the right thing and eliminate the debt ceiling, Boehner should try to join a small number of Republicans with the majority of Democrats and do the right thing. This business of letting a hard-core of GOP rejectionists determine the terms of the debate is a choice, and it's a choice he ought to reject.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.