"We tried everything we could to get the differences in our conference resolved," Boehner said Tuesday of moving a Democratic version of VAWA last week. "And the fact is they couldn’t resolve their differences. It was time to deal with this issue and we did."So, according to Boehner, VAWA was a bill that needed to pass, and Republicans weren't capable of coming up with a version that could pass. The solution: push the GOP to the side and let the Democrats lead the way.
But even though Boehner has now allowed three votes so far this year on bills opposed by a majority of the House Republican Conference, he's not actually going against the wishes of his party. It's the exact opposite, in fact—a strategy that Ashley Parker of the New York Times dubbed "Vote No, Hope Yes."
The basic idea of Vote No, Hope Yes is that many Republicans realize that they can't stand in the way of must-pass legislation like the fiscal cliff deal, VAWA or Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, they can't bring themselves to support it, so they try to split the difference by allowing the legislation to come up, and then voting against it while simultaneously hoping it will pass.
As Sarah Binder of the Brookings Institution pointed out earlier this year, we know that House Republicans overwhelmingly supported Speaker Boehner's decisions to bring the fiscal cliff and Hurricane Sandy bills up for a vote because they overwhelmingly supported the procedural votes that allowed those bills to move forward. The same was true with VAWA. You can see those votes here, here and here. Republican opposition was in single digits on each vote.
What this means is that Vote No, Hope Yes isn't just a Boehner strategy—it's a strategy with broad support in the House Republican Conference, and it's deeply dysfunctional. Essentially, Republicans are conceding that they are too extreme for the country, at least on some issues, and that on those issues, Democrats should lead the way. The simple solution for Republicans would be to moderate their views, but they are trapped between satisfying their right-wing base and not pissing off a center-left nation, so they give us Vote No, Hope Yes in an attempt to split the difference.
I suppose that Vote No, Hope Yes is a little better than a simple strategy of "no, no, no," but not by much. The fiscal cliff, Hurricane Sandy and VAWA votes never should have been in doubt in the first place. And on things like the sequester, it isn't doing us any good at all. As Republicans have been fond of saying, hope is not a plan. November 2014 can't come soon enough.