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“Revenge Of The Conservative Pragmatists?”: Willing To Save The GOP From Itself By Doing Common Sense Constructive Things

Even as the uncertainty around who will succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House seemed to grow murkier today, there was also a rare sighting of governing amid all the chaos.

Democrats announced at a press conference today that 218 House members have signed a discharge petition to force a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Discharge petitions are very rare — the last one that worked came in 2002, forcing a vote on campaign finance legislation some 13 years ago.

The Ex-Im Bank finances deals involving American exports, and its supporters say it is crucial in helping American companies compete with companies abroad for contracts and thus in sustaining U.S. jobs. But it has been a longtime target of conservatives who discern “crony capitalism” afoot.

At the presser today, Nancy Pelosi said:

“This is a very important day, because we have broken through the wall of obstruction in the Congress to get the job done in a bipartisan way. Which is what we all come here to do.”

And Democratic whip Steny Hoyer said:

“What today showed was, when people are allowed to express their will, we had 42 Republicans sign a discharge petition.”

What Pelosi and Hoyer are saying is that the success of today’s discharge petition shows that it is possible for a bipartisan coalition to come together on something if a way can be found to get around the GOP leadership’s refusal to hold a vote on it.

Now, we don’t know if Ex-Im will actually get reauthorized. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is already dumping cold water on the possibility of it getting to the Senate floor. But the question today’s discharge petition raises is whether it could be used to bring together a bipartisan coalition on other things that conservatives will insist that GOP leaders prevent votes upon.

“This suggests another way to go about this,” congressional scholar Norm Ornstein tells me. “If you end up with leaders who refuse to bring things to the floor that would pass with a lot of Democrats and that some Republicans want, make the discharge petition a regular tool. Don’t just do it once.”

Ornstein says that many of the House Republicans who signed the discharge petition aren’t necessarily moderates, which are a rarity in today’s GOP, but are better described as “conservative pragmatists.” Ornstein argues that, theoretically at least, many of these Republicans might be willing to sign discharge petitions to accomplish things like more funding for infrastructure and even lifting the debt limit, getting around a protracted standoff that GOP leaders might feel constrained to pursue to prove to conservatives that they are “fighting.”

The question would be whether Republican moderates would be willing to repeatedly defy the leadership, as well as conservatives activists and voters. “How willing are they going to be to say, ‘we’re going to save our party from itself by doing common sense things that are constructive, even if the crazy people say they don’t like it’?” Ornstein says.

All of this of course seems very far fetched. So do other solutions that would require breaking out of partisan patterns, such as Brian Beutler’s suggestion of the election of a coalition Speaker who, supported by Democrats and Republicans, would not have to live in fear of the House Freedom Caucus. But in a way that’s the point: Anything that is going to achieve results seems far fetched right now. Which means everything is worth trying.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 9, 2015

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Conservatives, Discharge Petition, Export-Import Bank | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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