First, the good news. It is virtually impossible that the 113th House could be worse than the 112th. We went from 191 to 200 seats, meaning only 19 Republicans need to join to get anything accomplished. More likely now that the final bill passed in violation of the Hastert rule. Over in the Senate, we're at 55, and hopefully today there will be agreement on changing the filibuster rule.
Here are my random thoughts:
Chris Christie and the Northeast/Midlantic delgations are completely correct when they point out that Boehner was morally bankrupt in delaying the Sandy vote. They are correct that, as a country, we have never before abandoned a region post-natural disaster. I would add two things: these are blue states. Just saying. Further, it offends me that Eric Cantor voted against aid to his district two years ago, when his town was the epicenter of the Northeast earthquake because he doesn't believe in aid. He voted against the "cliff" deal yesterday because he doesn't believe in such things. However, he's ALL FOR Sandy aid because the overwhelming majority of his big donors are New Yorkers. Again, just saying.
My thought on Christie is that he'll be the next Charlie Crist. He was very vocal in his disgust with the Republican House delegation, and especially John Boehner. He's done a lot for them, and to be abandoned like this is something he doesn't cotton to. Nor should he. His absolute disdain for his party will not serve him well in Iowa or South Carolina in 2016, although it will play well in NH and Nevada. Still, he'll be up on the stage with Ryan and Rubio, who will be defending opposite cliff votes, while Christie will be in a position to say "I had nothing to do with that, I was focused on my state, the way I would be focused on the whole country."
Still, while I believe he'll said to victory this year, I think his national profile as a Republican is over. I'm trying to get my head around him as a Democrat, although I'm coming around to seeing how it could happen. He'd be head of the Blue Dog coalition. We have a big tent....okay, I'll skip the fat joke.
No matter how you look at it, this will be a seminal year in Congressional politics. Obama was elected with a mandate. The House was elected through gerrymandering, and more Americans voted for Democrats in the House than Republicans. And they know it. Those 85 Republicans voted for the cliff legislation because they fear losing the general to a Democrat far more than they fear losing a primary challenge from the right. When Boehner is re-elected Speaker later today, he'll have the ability to accomplish something in a bipartisan fashion.
Boehner's been in the House for more than 20 years, and until this whole teabag thing, he was a moderate. Although, to be honest, he's never really been a man of strong convictions. (Except to tanning, smoking and golf.) He was the first in his family to go to college. He would be a Vietnam Vet, since he enlisted in the Navy after graduating high school, but he was bounced out a couple months later for a bad back. (Which doesn't affect his golf game. Just saying.) John Boehner is a "regular guy" and I believe that given the opportunity, he'd rather accomplish something then be held hostage to the teabag coalition. He doesn't have the native smarts to outflank them, but luckily their caucus is shrinking, and he's got more "moderate" Republicans in the 113th. Cautious optimism.
There's a full plate over the next few months: guns, debt ceiling, debt and deficit (and yes, they're two separate things), Violence Against Women Act, Farm Bill, and Sandy. We'll be able to gauge how well Boehner understands the tiny island he's on when we see whether he actually brings the intermediate Sandy bill to the floor on Friday, and whether he denies the teabaggers floor votes on abortion, the ACA, and Planned Parenthood until everything else is settled.
Meanwhile, this is the time to get people active and engaged at the local level. It's how we won the presidential race last year, and it's how we're going to take back the states and then the House.