Here's How To Figure Out If A Majority of House Members Support Reopening The Government

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 6 2013 11:25 AM

How To See If Most House Members Want To End The Shutdown

Today's truly bizarre political controversy is that Speaker John Boehner says there aren't enough votes in the House for a "clean" Continuing Resolution that would reopen the government at the spending level Republicans favor, but without repealing Obamacare or any additional concessions. Various media whip counts disagree with Boehner, and suggest that at least twenty House Republicans have said they would vote for such a bill.

A lot of political controversies are difficult to unambiguously resolve. But this one seems pretty easy. The way to figure out how many House members would vote "yes" on this piece of legislation is to hold a vote. Then the clerk will count up who voted which way and we'll know.

Advertisement

Simple!

So why doesn't Boehner just hold the vote? One view is that he won't hold the vote because he knows his math is wrong. If the vote is held, the bill will pass and Boehner will lose face in the eyes of the more conservative members of his caucus. Another view is that Boehner's math is actually correct. Some of the 20-24 Republicans who've hinted they would support a clean CR might not, in fact, support such a bill if it were brought to the floor. Some of these folks would like to position themselves as moderate and distance themselves from Ted Cruz, but when the chips are down they don't actually want to break with the caucus. If that's right, declining to hold a vote is less a sop to conservatives than it is to moderates. It lets them get away with cheap talk.

The truth is probably a little from Column A and a little from Column B. If Boehner's math is right, then refusing to hold a vote protects moderates. If Boehner's math is wrong, then refusing to hold a vote appeases conservatives. And since nobody is really sure if Boehner's math is right or not, neither the 20-30 most conservative nor the 20-30 most vulnerable House Republicans really want to see a vote held. So by refusing to let the House vote, Boehner serves everyone's interests. With the important exception, that is, of the interests of the country at large which would be greatly advanced by a precise count.

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

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.