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Thursday, October 3, 2013


Everybody else has offered solutions to the crisis of government we now confront, so why not me?  The central problem appears to be John Boehner's unwillingness to risk the loss of his position as Speaker of the House.   Matt expresses a widespread wonder about why Boehner wants to keep a job that seems to give him so much grief, but there it is.  So we must craft a solution that will enable him to keep his Speakership and his seat in Congress, at least for another term.  Here is what I suggest .

President Obama should hold a meeting with Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, and Chris Redfern.  Chris Redfern?  Who on earth is Chris Redfern?  Glad you asked.  Chris Redfern is the Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party [Boehner represenmts Ohio's 8th CD.]   Obama should then offer Boehner a choice:

If he allows a clean one year Continuing Resolution and a clean Debt Ceiling rise to come to the floor of the House, where both will pass, then Nancy Pelosi will guarantee that Boehner keeps his Speakership, so long as there are at least seventeen Republicans who will stand with Boehner in any Tea Party challenge to his position.  How can she do this?  Simple.  When a vote is forced on the Speakership, if Boehner has a majority of the Republicans behind him, she will withdraw her name at the last moment, all the Democrats will vote "Present," and Boehner will win a majority of the votes cast , giving him the Speakership.  If Boehner cannot win a majority of the Republicans, enough Democrats will vote for him to elect him Speaker.

Meanwhile, in the Ohio 8th, a furious tea Party challenge to Boehner will immediately arise.  [Boehner has represented the district for twenty-one years, and ran last year unopposed.]   If Boehner loses the Primary, he can run as an Independent, and Chris Redfern will throw the support of the Democratic Party of Ohio to his support, pretty much guaranteeing that he will win.

If Boehner refuses the deal, then Obama will ignore the debt limit on 14th Amendment grounds and invite Boehner to impeach him, confident that it will be impossible to get two thirds of the Senate to vote for conviction.


Howie said...

I have my own solution but it involves the mafia and of course a closed room

Occasional Observer said...

Very interesting, but I’ve been pushing the discharge petition (“d.p.”), which is the mechanism whereby a simple majority of House members (217 owing to vacancies) can bring a bill to the floor for an up-or-down vote notwithstanding committee or partisan obstruction. It is an unusual procedure, but it figured in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and of McCain-Feingold. The story of the former is in volume 4, chapter 20 of Robert Caro’s biography of LBJ. Democrats should have launched a d.p. as soon as they had reason to suspect the majority was engineering a budget crisis to be followed by a debt crisis. This was knowable long ago.

It is widely assumed that the “Hastert Rule” is parliamentary bedrock. This “rule” – that no bills will reach the floor unless a majority of the majority party approves it – is just Republican practice. The assumption is astonishing. We know that the House, unlike the Senate, is run by majority rule but not how the d.p. embodies this fact. It is the Senate that’s anomalous, including worldwide, yet everyone sees the Senate as the norm. But I was in this mindset until I read volume 2 of Caro’s LBJ series, which opens with a history of the Senate, showing how it is anti-democratic by design and how the filibuster rule best encapsulates this.

Oddly, the House is now the chamber in which a neo-confederate political faction has managed to obstruct things. Gerrymandering has made it their antimajoritarian redoubt. The d.p. is their Achilles’ heel, but only conceptually since it’s been forgotten. I see our prevailing assumption as unwitting complicity.

LBJ was not above cutting a deal with the Boehners of his day. He let Ev Dirksen take some of the credit. But it always came down to getting the votes. More to the point, one of his first calls after assuming the presidency was to Richard Bolling (D-MO), a low-level congressman who was circulating a d.p. LBJ told Bolling Republicans would refuse to sign, pleading respect for House tradition. They should be denied this out. Then LBJ told every interest group imaginable to go after Republican holdouts. In the event the petition did not garner 218 signatures, but there were enough for LBJ to get the chair of House Rules (the Pete Session of the day) to let the Senate bill out of committee.

Sadly, it is only Republicans who think in such terms with any consistency. As I saw the present crisis brewing, I asked my representative in Congress, a Democrat in the Progressive Caucus, to get a d.p. going. That was weeks ago. But I lost it yesterday at Daily Kos when some blogger expressed delight that Sessions apparently maneuvered his way around the procedure. See “Why a discharge petition won’t happen” and the comment of Occasional Observer. (

The blogger took delight in the apparent thwarting of the d.p. route so that all attention could be focused on Boehner. The idea there, and here, is much the same: It all comes down to Boehner – thank God! With all due respect, this is puerile. It all comes down to votes!

The Dems have flirted with the d.p. idea, but only in a passive form. If I read them right, they are counting on moderate R’s to come to them, perhaps by way of Jesus, perhaps by way of Rove, Bloomberg, and the Chamber of Commerce, and ask them, “Where do I sign?” We would never have gotten the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had this been LBJ’s approach. And there is a huge difference, as just learned, between Peter King’s saying there are 17, or 40, R votes to bring a clean C.R. to the floor and there being such votes. LBJ knew what it meant to have the votes because he knew how to secure them and how they figured in political careers. Such cunning, including its cynical side, is moribund in today’s Democratic Party and is grounds for lament.

Occasional Observer said...

UPDATE: I just spoke with Bernie Sanders on the Thom Hartmann Show and asked him to explain the discharge petition procedure to listeners. He was delighted to do so, endorsing it in the bargain.

While on hold I learned that the House Dems have come up with a way to invoke the procedure (link below). It can induce a vote by 10/14, but the R's may cave beforehand rather than risk an official schism. This is big news, but don't the MSM to discuss it.

Here's an action plan not of the "if I were king" variety: if you live in a non-Tea Party Republican district, call your rep and ask him/her to sign the petition. They will be caught in the middle and popular pressure will work wonders.

Here is the link:

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I just saw the news on this. Many thanks for the update. It may not work, but it is certainly worth a try. I think the Republican Party is collapsing.