Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Not voting their conscience

Fifty-three percent of Americans say the GOP is too extreme and needs to compromise more, according to an NBC/WSJ poll. Compromise is unlikely to happen, however, because Republicans have boxed themselves in with their own rule.

In the 1990s, House Speakers Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert had their caucus agree to a rule they called the majority of the majority. The rule says that in House-wide votes, the Republican caucus will not bring legislation to the floor that’s not backed by a majority of the majority.

Congressmen who defy the will of the caucus majority on the House floor stand to pay a steep price in being denied choice committee posts. Thus, individual representatives are coerced into giving up their freedom to vote their consciences or their constituents’ interests in favor of whatever the caucus orders.

Because of this majority-of-the-majority rule, House Speaker John Boehner has had to admit that he cannot deliver on tax and budget compromises that he has worked out with President Barack Obama and House Democrats.  

Considerations like constituent interests or the good of the nation will continue to take a backseat to obstruction and bullying as long as House Republicans adhere to their majority-of-the-majority rule. 

This is a time for working together, for moving beyond campaigning to finding solutions. Our leaders must embrace a system in which members of the House can work together to draw out the best of the best in people and ideas.

The nation is stronger when we listen to the voices of moderation that represent the majority of Americans, who can compromise when it makes sense.

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