House hijinks

I haven’t paid much attention to the Republican Study Committee’s budget, as it wasn’t going to pass. It wasn’t even going to come close to passing. This is a document, after all, that House conservatives released to make Paul Ryan look like a squishy moderate. No one was going to vote for it. No one, that is, until earlier this afternoon, it almost passed.

Here’s what happened: In the House of Representatives, a simple majority can pass a bill. But you can do more than just vote “yes” or “no.” You can also vote “present.” So a bunch of Democrats — 172 of them, to be exact — either voted “present” or, more sneakily, switched from “no” to “present.” As the number of “no” votes dwindled, the confused Republican realized their “yes” votes — votes that were friendly expressions of conservative solidarity rather than an actual effort to pass the RSC’s plan — were becoming a majority. The result, as Brian Beutler says, was “chaos” on the House floor, as Republicans, once they realized what was going on, rushed to switch their “yes” votes to “no” votes to make sure the RSC budget didn’t actually pass.

The bill went down to a narrow defeat, though Rep. Jim Jordan, who leads the RSC, took advantage of the Democrats’ trickery to trumpet “this is the closest we have ever been to passing our balanced budget.” So everybody’s happy, I guess. What I’d really like to know is who it was on the Democratic side who thought up this stunt.

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