By Dr. Harold A. Black
Although the Republicans are in the majority in the House of Representatives, there is still a way that the Democrats can pass legislation and get it signed into law. The Republican majority is slim 222-213, ironically the same as the Democrats in 2020. Unlike the Democrats who typically voted as a 100 percent block, the Republicans will oftentimes splinter. Consider that 10 House Republicans actually voted to impeach Donald Trump. Of that group, two return in 2023. Too often trying to hold the Republican caucus together is like herding cats. The latest instance was in the vote for Speaker which does not augur well for the Republicans. The Democrats nominated Hakeem Jeffries and their vote was unanimous in each round. The Republicans never had 222 votes for McCarthy. Initially, 20 members from the Freedom Caucus voted against McCarthy unless he had made concessions on at least 12 issues. In the end, rather than vote for McCarthy several diehards voted “present” to allow him to be elected with a simple majority. This raises the question as to whether the new speaker can hold his caucus together when it is time to vote on legislation.
It would be possible for the Democrats to craft legislation that would get six Republicans to vote for, allowing passage. Two cases come to mind. First, northern Republicans opposed the $10,000 limit imposed on home mortgage deductions in the tax legislation signed by President Trump. Thus, there is an opportunity for Democrats to propose an abolishment of the limit and with the help of six Republicans could pass the repeal. This would have to be a “clean” piece of legislation with only the repeal in it. Otherwise, it would not be able to get Republican support. Republicans could not introduce the bill because it would be looked upon by Trump supporters as a repudiation of the former president. The second case is that of the “Dreamers”, those people whose parents were illegal aliens (now called migrants) who were brought into the country as minors. Eighty percent of Americans support legalizing Dreamers. There is considerable support on both sides of the aisle to grant citizenship or an easy path to citizenship for this group. In 2017, 34 House Republicans stated they would vote to legalize Dreamers. However, attempts to do so failed, mainly because the proposed legislation had provisions that the other Republicans could not support. Consider however new legislation that is clean – devoid of any provision other than granting citizens to the Dreamers. My bet is that such legislation would pass. In the past, it has been said that neither party would support immigration reform and just want to use it to political advantage. My bet is that legislation that only considered the Dreamers would pass. But the Republicans, because of opposition from their base, could not introduce the legislation. It would have to come from the Democrats instead. My bet is that it would pass the House, would sail through the Senate and be signed into law by the President.
If the Democrats proposed those two pieces of legislation they would be passed despite the Republican majority. It could severely damage the Republicans who would lose the support of their base. The Freedom Caucus might even threaten to leave the party. The Republicans who voted for the Democrat-proposed bills would be harassed and called RINOs like the 18 senators who voted for the Omnibus spending bill.. McCarthy’s status as Speaker, now tenuous at best, would be threatened. The Republican party would be in shambles. If this is so obvious to me, I am sure that it must have occurred to others – including the Democrats in Congress.