Not a day goes by when I don’t receive correspondence from readers of this commentary complaining about the Republicans in Congress. Republicans have a majority, readers ask me, so why can’t Republicans do something about immigration or spending or taxes or energy or missile defense or marriage or right-to-life? I have a two-word answer: Liberal Republicans. The media calls them “Moderate Republicans.” There is nothing “moderate” about them. They are Liberals.
The Democrats smell blood. Democrats absolutely are convinced that they will be re-elected as the majority in both houses of Congress in the 2006 elections. So you won’t find Democrats cooperating on any front.
Usually Republicans can count on a handful of Democrats, twenty-some to be more precise, to pass appropriations bills or other controversial measures which come before the House of Representatives. Not now. Even the most reasonable Democrat again sees him- or herself as a committee or subcommittee chair after a dozen years in the wilderness. So Democrats are not about to help Republicans enact any legislation.
Liberal Republicans have tremendous leverage over the rather Conservative Leadership. They are the margin of victory or defeat. A majority, 218 votes if all 435 Members vote, is required to pass legislation in the House. Republicans hold 232 seats. There are anywhere from 22 to 26 Liberal Republicans depending upon the issue. That means that the Leadership could have between 206 and 210 votes to pass measures but would be short of the majority required.
Unless Liberal Republicans get their way they won’t go along with the Leadership, not even to vote for bills aimed at keeping the government going. Thus the House Leadership found itself on the short end of votes when the FY 2006 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill was up for consideration. All 201 Democrats voted against the Bill. The GOP Leadership thought it had the votes but when the roll call was taken the Leadership was a few votes short. The vote was a tremendous embarrassment for the GOP Leadership.
Likewise, the Deficit Reduction Act, a reconciliation bill, had to be pulled. First, Liberal Republicans demanded that Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and offshore drilling for oil and natural gas be stricken from the Bill. The Leadership reluctantly agreed because without the votes of Liberal Republicans the Bill could not be passed. When the Leadership pulled those items from the Bill it angered Members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the caucus of House Conservatives. The RSC Members threatened to bring down the Deficit Reduction Bill, which the Leadership pulled from the calendar so as not to cause the Bill to be defeated.