From the 1999 through 2013, Republicans rarely broke the so-called Hastert Rule: the unofficial rule that no Republican Speaker of the House would let let legislation move to a full vote unless a majority of the Republican Conference supported that legislation. But now it's happened three times in the first two months of 2013—first on the tax cliff, then on the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, and now on the Violence Against Women Act.
I'm sure there are some folks who think Boehner deserves credit for being willing to let legislation move forward despite opposition from his own conference, but while they've at least got a superficially decent point, this trend says less about Boehner's flexibility than it does about the dysfunctional nature of House Republicans. Clearly, many House Republicans are voting no on legislation that they secretly hope passes. Indeed, as Ashley Parker of the New York Times reported, some House Republicans are even saying this on the record.
The thing that isn't entirely clear is this: Why are Republicans voting no and hoping yes? Is it because they secretly disagree with their political base, but are too afraid to cast votes that might cost them a primary? Or do they agree with their base, but are too afraid to block legislation that they fear could cost them a majority? Or is it both?
Whatever the case, House Republicans aren't being honest about what they stand for. They're lying to somebody—or everybody. And when it comes to actually enacting must-pass legislation, the party that has reliably been willing to stand up and move the country forward is the Democratic Party. That's why Boehner has had to turn to Democrats three times in two months to get critical legislation passed.
I suppose that's better than nothing at all, but one of the key messages in 2014 should be that keeping Republicans in control of the House is recipe for more of this kind of dysfunction. The country would be much better off with Democrats in control of the House. After all, they're already doing much of the work.