October 23, 2015


Not Even Paul Ryan Can Bridge The House GOP's Divisions (DAVID WASSERMAN, 10/23/15, 538)

House GOP factions in 2015

51 "Dependables": voted with leadership all five times
39 "Allies": voted with leadership four of five times
51 "Helpers": voted with leadership three of five times
53 "Skeptics": voted with leadership two of five times
25 "Agitators": voted with leadership one of five times
11 "Rebels": voted with leadership zero of five times
Note: 17 Republicans didn't cast enough votes to be counted in one of the above groups.

Most House Republicans aren't simply "establishment" backers or "tea party" rebels. In fact, the plurality in the middle belongs to what The New York Times has dubbed the "Vote No, Hope Yes" caucus. These Republicans vote strategically with the leadership just enough of the time to jockey for plum committee assignments, but they voted against Boehner enough to shield themselves from a tea party primary back home.

However, Ryan has been a rare "Dependable," just like Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who folded his speaker bid after the House Freedom Caucus opposed him. He's one of only 51 members (21 percent of the conference) who have voted with leadership all five times, including on the continuing resolution last month that kept the government open, despite the conservative push to shut it down over federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The 36 "Rebels" and "Agitators," who overlap almost perfectly with the membership of the House Freedom Caucus, hold a fundamentally different perspective: 72 percent were elected after President George W. Bush left office, and most won their primaries by running against not only President Obama, but also the Bush-era bailouts and the GOP "status quo" of tax and spend. They almost all hail from safe GOP seats.

By contrast, the 51 "Dependables" skew toward veteran members who were first elected in a different era, when earmarks and accumulated clout were tickets to political security. A majority -- 55 percent -- were first elected before Bush left office. Many hail from swing districts outside the South where bipartisanship pays political dividends. Ryan is Exhibit A: he was first elected in a Wisconsin swing district in 1998 and voted with Democrats to pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout in 2008.

The party needs to give the leadership more power, so that putative Republicans who oppose having the party govern can be punished.

Posted by at October 23, 2015 3:38 PM

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