Boehner Rejects Bipartisanship


I think John Boehner has a reasonable take on the question of bipartisanship:

Despite White House overtures for congressional Republicans to work with Democrats, the top GOP official in the House said Sunday that such opportunities are limited.

“There aren’t that many places where we can come together,” House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.”

Republicans were elected to stand by their principles, and those principles are different than the “leftist proposals” offered by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, Boehner said.

I think that’s right, and it’s reflected in the fact that the US House of Representative is a fairly well-functioning legislative body. It’s a body organized around two major political parties that outline competing, somewhat coherent agendas that command large-scale support from their own members and little support from the opposition. Some issues scramble the coalitions and leave the door open to large-scale bipartisanship, but the bulk of the legislative terrain consists of systematic disagreement on important issues. There are biannual elections at which the American people put either one party or the other in charge, and having won an election the winning party attempts to govern in a way that maintains the confidence of the voters.

It’s a perfectly good system. Sometimes a majority sees its margins trimmed (1996, 1998, 2000) other times it sees its margin enhanced (2002, 2008) and sometimes a majority is replaced by a rival majority (1994, 2006) and the House’s policy agenda changes accordingly. Boehner’s ideas are different from Nancy Pelosi’s ideas, and if he wants his ideas to prevail he needs to assemble a majority prepared to support him. That’s his responsibility as an opposition leader, whereas Pelosi’s responsibility is to frame a successful governing agenda that maintain’s the public’s faith in her co-partisans. It’s a system where power aligns with responsibility, and where those with power are held accountable for their use of it.

The Senate, by contrast, is a mess.