November 16, 2004

Why divide when you can conquer?

A question about Mark Schmitt's much-cited "DeLay Theory of Congressional Majorities":
That this is the congressional strategy has begun to seem clear to me, although it's a radical innovation. Hastert and DeLay's insight seems to be that a bill that gets 218 votes in the House is just as much the law as one that gets 430. And for every vote they add on to the necessary minimum majority, they might have to compromise in some unnecessary way, whether with Democrats or their own fiscal conservatives. In other words, they see every vote over a bare majority as the equivalent of leaving money on the table or overbidding in an auction.
Now I understand that if you're interested in pushing the most conservative bill possible through Congress, you want only 218 votes, so that you reduce the amount of compromising. But this has nothing to do with how many conservatives you want in Congress.

If you have a 218-seat majority in the House, then you always have to compromise within that subset. If you have 350 Republicans in Congress, then you can choose the 218 members who will pass the most conservative bill possible. The 50%+1 governing style works best with huge majorities. Republicans don't have that largely because Bush is a major fuck-up, not to mention the fact that current Republican majorities in the House are super-stable thanks to gerrymandering and the general advantage House incumbents have. It's possible that Karl Rove is pursuing only slim majorities; but I'm not sure that's all to his advantage.
-- Brad Plumer 2:15 PM || ||