Yesterday, Speaker of the House John Boehner was unable to craft any bill that could get 217 Republican votes. Since there are 240 members of the GOP in the House, and he can count on very few Democratic votes, he needs less than 25 defections for a bill to get through the body. There were a number of problems that kept his members from supporting what he came up with; some major, some just silly.
We’ll start out with the major difficulties first. First, many Congressmen have a problem with the idea that there are virtually no cuts that take place in the short-term. It turns out that the plan has been exposed so that in the next few years, government will remain in place as is. For example, much has been made that Medicare eligibility has been adjusted to age 67 rather than the current age of 65. But it turns out that this provision does not take effect until 2014.
Which brings up the second problem… why do the Medicare changes not take effect for two more years? Well, that’s when Obamacare comes into effect, guaranteeing that individuals are able to continue using their employer-based health care plan remains in effect following their retirement. So, if the Boehner bill passed, how could any Republican argue that they intended to repeal Obamacare next year, and expect any semi-intelligent individual to not recognize that they were merely pandering to the least common denominator of voters amongst us?
A minor problem that has come to the forefront in recent days is that Boehner refuses to defund Pell Grants in his bill, much to the chagrin of some of his allies. As we know, the function of these grants is to provide college funding to low-income students. As one of his members, Denny Rehberg (R-MT) said, “So you can go to college on Pell Grants — maybe I should not be telling anybody this because it’s turning out to be the welfare of the 21st century. You can go to school, collect your Pell Grants, get food stamps, low-income energy assistance, Section 8 housing, and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people that don’t have to graduate from college.” Yeah, we can all read between those lines, can’t we? I’ve got an idea…why don’t we eliminate foreign aid to any nation that provides free universal health care to its people…so in effect we are paying for another people’s health care for them? Bibi would be on the phone in a second, telling every Republican to stop it right now.
Everyone knows that this roll call, whenever Boehner gets the votes, will just be a charade now. It is purely symbolism. Anything that passes cannot get through the Senate, no matter how much time pressure is put upon them. The reason for this is that it is difficult to imagine 13 Democrats in the Senate who can afford electorally to vote for the bill as it must be constructed to get through the House Republican caucus. So pass something, anything, just to get through his caucus. We know that nothing in the House will make any real changes to Medicare, Social Security, or defense spending to take place in the short term. So whatever discretionary spending must be cut to get it through to the next stage, just hold your breath and dive in. Your members will get their vote on the record, and you might be able to keep your job.