Friday, December 21, 2012

Majority of a Majority

Gerard N. Magliocca

The latest breakdown of the fiscal cliff negotiations illustrates the problems created by another unwritten constitutional rule--no bill may be brought to the House floor unless it is supported by a majority of the majority party.  It is possible that a budget measure could pass the House with the support of most Democrats and some Republicans, but that is not an option for the Speaker. The practice of requiring a majority of the House majority operates as a minority veto that is even more lopsided than the Senate filibuster, since it means that (typically) less than a third of the House can block action.

What is the source of this venerable tradition?  The answer is that Dennis Hastert came up with this about ten years ago.  (I must admit that I don't know if the Democrats imposed a similar requirement when they ran the House under Nancy Pelosi).  Not exactly a foundational principle of the Republic.

There is a way around this obstacle.  A discharge petition can be signed by a majority of the entire House to force a bill to the floor, which is what was done (or threatened) to overcome committee chairs who tried to bottle up civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Of course, a discharge petition cannot be put forward until there is an actual bill to debate.


When Pelosi was speaker, she and the Democratic leadership brought to the floor Iraq war funding measures (with no timetables for withdrawal) that a majority of Democrats opposed.

"A discharge petition can be signed by a majority of the entire House to force a bill to the floor."

What bill do you propose to discharge?

Obama and the Democrats are offering no legislation to discharge. This is intentional because they want to raise taxes and blame the Republicans.

Boehner's Plan D was simply adopting the Hoover-style millionaires tax offered by the congressional Dems in 2010, but since abandoned by the Dems once Bohner took it up because they want to raise taxes and blame the Republicans.

FWIW, the GOP House should pass a bill making all the current tax rates permanent and adjourn the House for this Congress.

The Democrats want to raise taxes, let them.

In the next Congress, elect a new conservative Speaker and Whip and cease all secret negotiations.

Introduce a bill enacting the Simpson-Bowles tax reform and budget reform bills and a five year debt limit which will limit borrowing to those levels.

Have Ways and Means bring in Simpson and Bowles to pitch their plan.

Invite the President and Pelosi to introduce their own legislation for consideration by the House and the voters.

Then debate the plans in committee and on the floor in full view of the public.

You know, how a real representative democracy is supposed to work and hasn't since 2007.

Meanwhile, in hopeless court actions against filibusters news:

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