The Open Rule

To start off, let’s give John Boehner credit where due. When in opposition he promised to conduct the business of the House in a more open manner, I assumed he was just operating in bad faith as House Minority Leaders always are when they promise this. So far, though, he’s been true to his word.

Now let’s give John Boehner less credit. I assumed he was operating in bad faith like House Minority Leaders always do because trying to operate routinely under open rules with amendments flying everywhere is crazy. My preference, I suppose, would be for parliamentary leaders to actually physically whip members of congress into line (willingness to withstand lashing being a decent proxy for preference-intensity) but barring that the House’s tradition of iron-fisted rule-based discipline is a great model. I’m not sure reporters have picked up on it yet since everyone’s reveling in the sheer fun of unpredictable outcomes, but this may end up creating an accidental government shutdown.

Ezra Klein writes:

The open rules are leading to a lot of ad hoc coalitions between congressional Democrats and more mainstream congressional Republicans. If these two groups get used to working with each other on small things, such as funding for police, that might help them work together on big things, such as avoiding a default or shutdown.


What if it goes the other way. Suppose you have one large bloc of Republicans who vote vote for a continuing resolution that contains less than $X in cuts. Then on the other side you have a large bloc of Democrats who won’t vote for a continuing resolution that contains more than $Y in cuts. But every time Boehner brings a specific bill with $X cuts in it to the floor, ad hoc coalitions strip some $Z worth of specific items from the bill such that X-Z>Y and then the thing fails. That way instead of the big ideological standoff between the House and the White House that we’ve been primed to expect as a source of government shutdown, we’d get a shutdown driven by preference-cycling and perverse affection for open debate.