Robert Novak

On May 9, Flake sent Boehner a candid letter: "We need more than individual members of the Republican leadership to state their opposition to the bill. We need the leadership to use its good offices to explain the importance of sustaining the president's veto as opposed to advising members to 'vote their districts.'"

Boehner, waiting four days before responding, last Tuesday rejected the "vote their districts" escape for House Republicans: "I believe they should also vote their consciences, and cast their votes in a manner consistent with the small government principles upon which our party was founded." Boehner took the floor Wednesday to speak against the bill.

But nobody cracked the party whip. On the contrary, Minority Whip Roy Blunt voted for the bill. So did Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam, who was seen whipping votes for passage. House Republicans voted 100 to 91 to approve the bill (with only 15 Democrats in opposition), assuring an overriden veto. Similarly, in the Senate, Republicans voted 35 to 13 for the bill, and the only Democrats opposing it were Rhode Island's two senators.

That did not conclude the dismal Republican performance for the week, as lawmakers raced out Thursday for their usual long weekend. Seventeen pork-minded Republican senators gave the Democratic leadership necessary support to waive from the farm bill the brand new ban of earmarks on a bill that had cleared both houses. Thirty-two craven Republican House members voted for upper-bracket tax increases to finance new veterans benefits. They all return to work this week to encounter a new comprehensive reform introduced by Paul Ryan on health care, Social Security and taxes -- titled "A Roadmap for American's Future." If anybody needs a roadmap, it's Ryan's colleagues.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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