Well, I guess we’re about to find out just how “lame” of a duck Paul Ryan is as Speaker of the House pretty quickly. The rift between moderate GOP House members and the Tea Party caucus cost John Boehner his job, and it may well cost the GOP more than that very shortly.
“Moderate” conservative House GOP members have had-it-up-to-here with the Tea Party. They’re sick and tired of their majority being held hostage by about 40 powdered wig morons, and they’re fighting back. And this pie fight just might be the beginning of the final Armageddon in the GOP over what it will look like going forward.
Turns out, the GOP moderates in the House are sick of Paul Ryan’s shit too. They know that they’re going to get hammered over DACA and immigration in the fall, and they want it off of the table. But Ryan is steadfastly refusing to even consider bringing any kind of immigration reform or DACA fix to the floor. So, they’re going behind his back.
Last week, the House moderates invoked a rather arcane, and seldom used House rule, and filed a “motion to discharge” petition. This is a way for a party, normally the minority party, to haul a bill, kicking and screaming, out of committee, and force it to the floor for debate and a straight up or down vote. The petition is aimed at freeing up a bill that has been stalled in committee for more than 30 days, this time by freeing up a “special rule” that has been in the rules committee for more than 7 days to free up the bill. Don’t worry, it all makes sense somehow.
Moderate House Republicans are basically telling Paul Ryan to go pound sand. There is no way that the GOP moderates will garner 218 GOP votes, but if House Democrats are onboard, it will only take about 23 crossover GOP moderates to do the trick. Historically, discharge motions rarely succeed, mainly because it is the minority party that files them, to make a political point, but this one might just make it. If the motion is successful, The Washington Post describes what will come next;
Trump’s favored proposal — a bill sponsored by Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) that would match limited DACA protections with beefed-up border security and cuts to legal immigration — would take the first slot. A bill to that would enact DACA into law, sponsored by Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), would take the second. A third vote would be reserved for a proposal from Ryan, and the final vote saved for a proposal from the GOP moderates, most likely for a plan that would legalize DACA and bolster border security.
The alleged “cover” for moderate House GOP members here is that the DACA fix would also include sweeteners that Trump would like, increased border security, and adjustments to legal immigration. And, in the lead up to the government shutdown earlier this year, Chuck Schumer had already signaled the Democrats willingness to spring for border funding in return for enshrining DACA into legislation. So, theoretically, there is common ground here for both sides to agree.
If this discharge petition passes, it is a ticking time bomb for the GOP, and not only in the House. First, it is a direct clip across the chops to Paul Ryan, and it signals that the more moderate part of the party is going to try to wrest control of the agenda back. It is also a clear signal to the Teahadists that their days as outsized power brokers are over. And most importantly, if this works, it can’t pass without Democratic support. If it passes, and the public praises it, it sets a template for how legislation in the House will likely be pursued in the future, especially if the Democrats retake the House in November.
The passage of immigration reform through the House would also be an existential threat to Mitch McConnell. McConnell has already forsworn any effort at immigration reform this year. This has angered several moderate GOP Senators, who would like this problem to disappear. If a strongly bipartisan bill passes the House, the pressure on McConnell to bring it to the floor for a vote will be intense. If McConnell refuses to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, he risks a rebellion in his own caucus, and a very real threat to his position in January, regardless of whether the vote is for the Senate Majority or Minority leader. If it is a sane bill, and it gets to the floor, there should be plenty of vulnerable GOP Senators, especially those running in 2020, to get past the 60 vote cloture.
Probably the one most unaffected by all of this kerfuffle will be Glorious Bleater himself. Time and again, Trump has shown his willingness to forego anything even remotely resembling a principle for momentary headlines. This simple fact gives McConnell even less reason to risk his own neck to provide Trump cover. Besides, Trump has already signaled his willingness to save the DREAMER’s, if he is presented with the alternative of almost assuredly losing control of at least the House in November with a veto, Trump will settle for the photo op, and claim victory with the additional border security funding.
But, forget the whole immigration bill for a moment. This is now a full-blown civil war in the GOP, being played out on the House floor. Who will be in ultimate control, the Tea
Baggers and lunatics, or mainstream Republicans, with a more traditional conservative agenda? Unless the bills that come to the floor would be a complete capitulation, the Democrats would be well advised to back this discharge petition to the wall. It would show them fighting for the DACA recipients, as well as being willing to compromise to get things done. And if this works and the public approves, this could be the pulling of the first brick of partisan obstructionism on both sides, and the first baby steps on the road to a return of legislation. High stakes indeed for something flying so far under the radar so far.
A note from the author: If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy my books, including the brand new President Evil II: A Clodwork Orange: