Time For Speaker Boehner to Let The House Speak For Itself

Isaiah J. Poole

President Obama talked to the news media for over an hour today, but all you really needed to hear was summed up in two words: Just vote.

The president once again challenged House Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on a continuing resolution that would allow the federal government to reopen and on a measure to raise the debt ceiling so the government can pay the obligations it has already made.

The latest tally by Jennifer Bendery at The Huffington Post as President Obama addressed the nation today is that there are at least 23 House Republicans who would vote for a “clean” continuing resolution that would allow federal agencies to reopen without preconditions. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said today that all 200 House Democrats would also vote to reopen the government.

But Boehner is refusing to allow that vote. Instead, today House Republicans came up with a new scheme to make themselves appear to be reasonable when in fact they are engaging in the same my-way-or-the-highway intransigence.

They sent to the House floor legislation that would create a 20-member bicameral panel ostensibly to come up with a long-term budget agreement. But that panel is designed to fail.

The mandate for the panel would include “overall levels of discretionary spending,” the debt ceiling and “reforms in direct spending programs,” such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But what is conspicuously absent from the proposal is any discussion of tax revenues. Democrats rightly would consider such a panel a nonstarter if it does not include for discussion the tax expenditures that go to the wealthy and corporations.

The panel also is governed by a rule that no agreement can be reached unless it “receives the support of a majority of the members appointed by both the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the majority leader of the Senate.” That, in effect, is the imposition of the “Hastert rule,” which allows a minority bloc of Republicans to obstruct any agreement reached by an otherwise bipartisan majority of the panel. It is the same rule – less a “rule” than a rule of thumb articulated by former Illinois Rep. Dennis Hastert when he was House speaker – that Boehner has used to justify his refusal to allow a vote and allow Tea Party extremists to maintain their stranglehold on the Congress.

It is clear that the Republicans have no interest in lowering the gun they have pointed at the nation’s economy. So the public will have to get loud.

There are several efforts under way to demand that the House put a clean continuing resolution on the floor to vote. This is what democracies do; allow the people’s representatives decide, especially when the national and global economies are at stake. Call House Speaker John Boehner at (202) 225-0600 and tell him to allow an up-or-down vote on a clean continuing resolution. Register your support on Twitter using the hashtag #JustVote.

Then, on Thursday, show up at the U.S. Capitol, joining federal workers who have been furloughed and activists from around the country, and demand a vote to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. The rally will start at 11 a.m. on the Senate side of the Capitol with a simple message: Just vote.

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