Tonight’s vote on the Senate-brokered deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” may set the stage for a Leadership challenge when the new Congress convenes at noon on Thursday. Almost two-thirds of the House GOP caucus voted against the Senate plan which provided for steep tax hikes and increased spending. Just 85 Republicans went along with an overwhelming majority of the Democrat caucus to pass the plan out of the House. Among these were Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) broke with Leadership and voted against the plan.
The House voted to pass the Senate deal by a vote of 257-167. 85 Republicans voted for the plan as well as 172 Democrats. 65% if the GOP caucus rejected the package, while 90% of Democrats voted for it. Speaker Boehner had long promised that only a deal that had support of a “majority of the majority” would be brought to the floor. He broke that promise tonight. Boehner and Ryan chose, instead, to line up with the Democrat caucus to pass the tax-only deal.
But, let’s set aside the policy implications for now. The political implications are evolving rapidly. This is the first time in the 2-year GOP Majority that Leadership has broken so decisively. That Cantor and McCarthy would break so publicly with Speaker Boehner suggests a fight for Leadership on Thursday.
The whole point of Leadership is to grease bills like this to passage. They are ugly, but they are seen to keep open options for future debates. Boehner and Ryan lost their caucus tonight. They had to rely on Democrat votes to secure passage. Worse, though, they lost the number 2 and 3 members of Leadership in the vote. Those members do not take that vote lightly.
Breitbart News’ Matt Boyle has reported that enough GOP members plan to withhold their support of Boehner to force to vote into at least a second ballot. At that point, things get interesting. There is almost no way Cantor and McCarthy don’t make a move against Boehner on Thursday. Ryan may have, yet again, fixed his wagon to a falling star.