Playing the “damn game”

Playing the "damn game"

“This isn’t some damn game!” House Speaker John Boehner famously told reporters last week, as the government shutdown dragged on and the nation edged closer to defaulting on its debts.

The Speaker is right, but someone forgot to deliver his message to his fellow House Republicans.

Just before the shutdown, when no one was paying much attention, GOP leaders (presumably with Boehner’s assent) engineered a bid of procedural chicanery that is now blocking bipartisan action to reopen the government.

House Resolution 368, adopted Sept. 30 on a party line vote, gives House GOP Leader Eric Cantor the exclusive right to bring to the floor a Senate-passed measure that would reopen the government. Without it, any member of the House could use a provision in the chamber’s standing rules to force such a vote.

The change didn’t seem to mean much when it was passed; Republicans had what appeared to be a cohesive majority in the House, so any Democratic attempt to force action on the Senate-approved bill would have failed.

But now, two weeks into the shutdown, news organizations that have counted the votes report that two dozen or more Republican representatives are ready to break ranks and vote with Democrats to go along with the Senate and reopen the government. If the head-counters are right, that would be enough to end the shutdown.

So thanks to a Republican maneuver, the shutdown continues. While it’s true that Democrats were willing to use procedural shenanigans of their own when they controlled the House, that doesn’t excuse the GOP’s use of them now.

As someone said, this isn’t some damn game!