House Democrats who struggle to impose influence in the Republican-dominated House aim to empower House Speaker John Boehner as a conduit to getting legislation passed that might otherwise be buried by conservative detractors.
According to The Hill
, Boehner is seen as a force for compromise on key legislation that Democrats want to see through, such as funding the government and raising the debt ceiling.
Democrats are seen willing to sign on to initiatives by Boehner after he puts down battles by conservatives and rallies the rest of the conference on key measures.
"[The Republicans] have a majority party that's deeply divided," Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Democrats' whip, told The Hill.
"And…what we've learned is if we stick together — and we have been sticking together, we've been very unified — that it can empower Speaker Boehner at some point in time to say, 'Look, I tried every which way I can think of to accomplish the objectives that our caucus wants to do. But if I can't accomplish those, I will not allow the government to shut down, the debt limit to be no extended, or other things that are harmful to the country,'" Hoyer said.
The fight over the Department of Homeland Security represented one example of how Democrats achieved what they wanted after Boehner wrestled unsuccessfully to corral his own party to compromise. Ultimately, he convinced the party to accept a clean bill without immigration stipulations, and Democrats signed on to the plan.
"I think that's the appropriate attitude for him to take," Hoyer said, according to The Hill. "I hope he continues that."
Democrats are hoping the episode will set a precedent for difficult debates in the future, and there are already indications that Boehner plans to work with Democrats.
Specifically, after years of Congress failing to enact a long-term solution to Medicare's problem of stabilizing physician payments, Boehner has started working with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in search of a solution, which could come within days. For his part, Boehner has signaled that he has no problem working with Pelosi on Medicare's "doc-fix."
"There was an opportunity that presented itself to work in a bipartisan way to find the appropriate offsets, spending offsets," he said Thursday, according to The Hill. "The door opened, and I decided to walk in it. As simple as that."
Pelosi has said she has "always had a good rapport" with Boehner and appears content working with the speaker on the Medicare bill even if she gets flak from liberals in her party.
"I call it the giant kaleidoscope," she said Thursday, according to The Hill. "You never know when you turn that dial who's going to be part of the formula for passing a bill."
"We're always a resource to each other," she said, referring to Boehner, "and hopefully this will be a good example of how we go forward."
There may be other opportunities for the two sides to work together with the upcoming Highway Trust Fund and the Import-Export bank. There will also be spending bills to pass in the autumn along with legislation to raise the debt ceiling.
"This is a guy who worked with Teddy Kennedy and George Miller in passing No Child Left Behind," Hoyer said, according to The Hill. "This is not a guy who's been unwilling throughout his career to work across the aisle."
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