Win for Obama, For Now

The End of the Hastert Rule

Now we know what it takes for House Republicans to see a little bit of reason.

Well, now we know what it takes for House Republicans to see a little bit of reason: It takes Fox News anchors warning them that if they don't pass the fiscal cliff bill, they'll be universally blamed. I would guess that there were some interesting phone calls being made yesterday afternoon to Speaker Boehner's office, calls we'll never know about, from various rich and influential people telling him to quit playing games and do the responsible thing.

Even so, it's worth remembering that only 85 of 241 Republicans backed the cliff bill. In other words, if it had been entirely up to them, they'd have killed it. That will always be worth remembering. Here's the roll call if you're interested. Boehner and Paul Ryan voted aye, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy no.

One question now is Boehner's speakership. He broke the Hastert Rule--he let a vote pass with mostly Democratic support. They were saying on TV last night that no one was making noises about challenging him, and the vote is soon--tomorrow--so maybe he gets to hold on. But if he does, the hard right is going to demand that he play much harder ball in March.

Obama comes out of this looking pretty good. He got a tax increase--not the one he wanted, but at least he got one on principle. He won on unemployment benefits, on which Senate Republicans didn't even demand offsetting cuts. And no entitlement cuts. But we'll see what happens next. March is going to be ugly.