spine·less (ˈspīn-ləs)

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The Republican “Vote No/Hope Yes” Caucus. From today’s New York Times (excerpts):

These are the small but significant number of Republican representatives who, on the recent legislation to head off the broad tax increases and spending cuts mandated by the so-called fiscal cliff, voted no while privately hoping — and at times even lobbying — in favor of the bill’s passage, given the potential harmful economic consequences otherwise.

Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, part of the Republican whip team responsible for marshaling support for legislation, said the current makeup of House Republicans could be divided roughly into a third who voted in favor of the bill because they wanted it to pass, a third who voted against the bill because they wanted it to fail, and a third who voted against the bill but had their fingers crossed that it would pass and avert a fiscal and political calamity.

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The Vote No/Hope Yes group is perhaps the purest embodiment of the uneasy relationship between politics and pragmatism in the nation’s capital and a group whose very existence must be understood and dealt with as the Republican Party grapples with its future in the wake of the bruising 2012 elections.

Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist and once the top spokesman for the former House speaker J. Dennis Hastert, a Republican, described the phenomenon thusly: “These are people who are political realists, they’re political pragmatists who want to see progress made in Washington, but are politically constrained from making compromises because they will be challenged in the primary.”

The New Year’s Day tax vote was a case study in gaming out a position on a difficult bill that many Republicans knew had to pass but was also one they preferred not to have their fingerprints on.

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Of course, legislators reluctant to take potentially unpopular votes are nothing new. A classic example occurs with Congressional pay raises, where, said David Dreier, a newly retired California Republican, the adage is, “Vote no and take the dough.”



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