Mastery of the House
Posted on November 2, 2012
If there is one thing every pundit, political expert, legislative leader and casual observer agree on about this election, it is the assumption that the House will stay in Republican hands.
That is no small achievement.
In fact, from where they started to where they are today, it is nothing short of amazing.
When the GOP seized back control of the House in 2010 in a tsunami, they brought in with them a sizeable group of very solid and capable legislators. But they also had more than their fair share of wing-nuts and knuckleheads.
I won’t name names, but they know who they are. In wave elections, that is what happens. Some folks get elected who have no business getting elected.
I remember well in the Class of 1994 and some of the real characters who came in that wave election, only to be swept back into the sea in the next two elections.
The rambunctious class of 2010 came in with high expectations, but relatively little power. You can’t dictate terms when you only control one-half of one-third of the government.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is a cagey legislator, understood implicitly that you couldn’t tell this new class anything. You had to show them.
And sometimes showing them could be an ugly process.
It was ugly during the Debt Ceiling fiasco. It was ugly when they put together the automatic sequester. It was ugly when the Grand Bargain fell apart. It was ugly during the Appropriations and budget process.
Sometimes Boehner let the House work its will. Sometimes Boehner would bring bills to the floor and not have enough votes to pass them. Sometimes those bills would fail and the boo-birds would call him a failure as Speaker.
Sometimes the staffs would bicker and that bickering would leak out into the press, giving comfort to the Democrats (who had their own problems), and causing the Republican Conference to wonder who was really running the show.
But there was a method to Boehner’s madness. He had to show his new members (and some of the old ones) how to be legislators, how to make better choices when picking fights with the White House, how to avoid dumb decisions that would bite the entire group in the ass.
It wasn’t always easy. But it worked.
The Republicans passed a politically difficult budget out of the House twice, but those votes haven’t really factored into this election as a major issue. They got their appropriations bills done and then did something more brilliant. They got the Senate to agree to an early 6-month CR, which gave their members plenty of time to get home and campaign.
Boehner decided not to take politically controversial pieces of legislation to the floor, if he could do them later in a lame duck. He avoided a political blood bath on the Farm Bill and on Postal Reform, because he understood that sometimes the best story is the one that isn’t written.
Both Boehner and Eric Cantor took some steps to ease the tension between the two staffs, and now the staffs aren’t bickering. They are actually working very closely together, just as it should be. That has increased the coordination between the Speaker and the Majority Leader, and made the team work better.
Boehner and his leadership team also developed smart plans to win redistricting and to take care of “Orphan Districts,” districts that don’t have a Presidential or Senatorial race and need more care and feeding.
Now, most analysts believe that there are already 226 safe Republican seats before there is even an election. That ‘s amazing.
The House GOP, love them or hate them, are the only sure thing in Washington D.C. And John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Pete Sessions and the rest of the leadership deserve tremendous credit for making it happen.