The Corner

Moderate Threat Fizzles

The size of a bloc of GOP moderates ready to bring down a vote on the House floor over the government-funding bill shriveled from 25 lawmakers on Saturday to just two when the House voted just now to pass the rule.

New York representative Peter King and Pennsylvania representative Charlie Dent, two key moderates, voted no, while four hardline conservatives, including Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, voted no because the bill didn’t draw a hard enough line against Obamacare.

The episode is a reminder of how congressional centrists aren’t as reliable as ideological warriors when it comes to keeping threats. But it also took a personal appeal from Speaker John Boehner and the particular circumstances of the vote to sway the group.

During the rule vote, Boehner went to the back of the House chamber to deliver a message to the would-be moderate revolutionaries. “Trust me,” Boehner told them, according to King. Boehner said he understood their concerns, but he had a plan that would make the dire situation turn out alright.

When Boehner has made similar appeals to the conservatives, it has often fallen on deaf ears. In both parties, those further toward the left and right flanks tend to have greater certitude about their views, prompting a willingness to buck the party line. Moderates, by their very nature, make unlikely participants in a rump rebellion.

Another factor keeping the moderates from gaining steam was the content of the bill Republicans will send to the Senate later this evening. Its inclusion of a provision to repeal a subsidy for lawmakers and congressional staff to purchase health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges means voting against it opens up lawmakers to a charge, rightly or wrongly, of trying to protect a special perk for Congress.

In the end, even with bad optics and Boehner’s personal pitch, the vote was still fairly close. About ten Republicans voted yes quickly after the rule vote obtained a majority, making it clear it would win. That is, some of those were willing to vote no, but not join a losing effort.  

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