Jeffery A. Jenkins

The Bouncing Boehner Blues (Monkeydelica Mix)

Don’t let the hug and kiss between House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) at the first session of the 114th Congress fool you. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Follow the bouncing ball: Despite looking much like other failures of John Boehner’s leadership, what happened with the recent DHS standoff is actually rather quite rare, and even still in comparison to the rarity of the frequency with which the Speaker of the House absolutely botches his job.

Close enough.

Jeffery A. Jenkins, in explaining how that works for the Washington Post, brings what for most of us is a vocabulary lesson:

Boehner’s ongoing struggle with the conservative wing of his caucus is well known. But Friday’s vote was unusual. In fact, it almost never happens. Here’s why.

During his time as Speaker, several majority party failures have occurred, as Boehner has ignored the informal “Hastert Rule” and allowed legislation to go forward when he didn’t have a majority of GOP support. This resulted in what is known as a “roll” — when a majority of the majority party opposes a bill that ends up passing. Notable examples of rolls since the beginning of 2013 have included the revision and extension of Bush-era tax cuts (bundled into the “fiscal cliff” deal), Hurricane Sandy Relief, and the Violence Against Women Act. These examples have been written about extensively. Rolls also feature prominently in political science scholarship, such as the book “Setting the Agenda” by Gary Cox and Mathew McCubbins.

In ignoring the Hastert Rule, Boehner bucked conservative opposition and relied upon Democratic support to pass legislation – which hurt his reputation as a party leader in the short run but preserved (in his estimation) the overall Republican brand name in the longer run.

But what happened Friday was different. It wasn’t a roll, but what we might call a “disappointment.” That is, Boehner had the support of a majority of his majority, but the bill ended up failing. This was because he lost more than 50 members of his caucus and was unable to corral more than a handful of Democrats to help pass the legislation.

Perhaps this is an occasion to make the pedantic point about the state of civics education in these United States. In order to be fascinated by Jenkins’ subsequent discussion of disappointments―he and colleagues Andrew Clarke and Nathan Monroe have apparently figured out that they are “extremely rare”―one must first comprehend the basic components; most are out of their depth well before they ever get to learning what a roll is. That such occasions are remotely significant? Well, that is complicated, or something, so why can’t the oppositional politicians we all voted for just get along?

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