House GOP Meltdown

Landing With a THUD

08.01.13 2:06 PM ET

This was a huge development yesterday, when the House GOP leadership had to pull the transportation bill (known by the acronym THUD) because they didn't have the votes. This is the kind of thing that if every American, or say every independent swing voter, knew about, and knew the backstory and details, a large majority of them would see just how ill prepared to govern Republicans are.

Brian Beutler at TPM and Matt Yglesias at Slate have both told the story well, so I'm just summarizing them at this point, but here's the deal. As you know, the House has passed the Paul Ryan budgets for a few years, budgets that impose deep cuts on discretionary spending, especially on the domestic side. All the Republicans support their man Ryan and his cuts.

That is, in the abstract. The Ryan budgets never named exact amounts for cuts. That's not what a "budget" does. But now we are in the thick of the post-sequestration "appropriations" process, and the appropriating subcommittees are the people who are supposed to come up with those exact dollar amounts.

And here's the issue. The appropriators can't come up with numbers that meet the Ryan targets and stand a chance of getting the votes to pass. Why? Simple: the cuts are too deep for legislators to stomach. And it isn't just Democrats. Obviously, if it were just Democrats, the Republicans would have had the votes to pass the THUD bill. But it isn't just Democrats. So there aren't 218 votes for the Ryan budget when it comes down to actual numbers.

This tells us the whole exercise is hypocritical, empty, and incompetent. Hard to say what the impact will be. Unfortunately, no more than about 3 percent of Americans are ever going to understand what just happened here. But surely there will be some kind of impact on the Hill itself, because we now see that Republicans' postures are empty. It could force Boehner to do a lot more breaking of the Hastert (Non) Rule than he'd like, or we simply won't have appropriations bills, and the government will shut down, and the target of blame will be manifestly clear. Yglesias summarizes it well:

The dynamics of a meltdown of the GOP majority would be different from that and so would the legislative outcomes. There won't be an "Obama Revolution" if the Republicans get rolled, but there just might be bipartisan deals to replace sequestration and reform the immigration system. The Republican majority, in other words, may be nearly immune to electoral defeat thanks to favorable district boundaries—but it's not immune to its own dysfunction.