House Republicans must be willing to enlist Democrats to pass important legislation, a moderate GOP lawmaker told TPM on Thursday after his leadership passed the Violence Against Women Act with mostly Democratic votes.
“I suspect you may see more issues appear like this,” moderate Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) told TPM in an interview Thursday afternoon. “It’s quite possible on matters of governance, where there are not the Republican votes, that there will be bipartisan coalitions formed to pass important legislation. … If John Boehner doesn’t have enough Republican votes, we’ll need Democratic votes. It’s very basic. There’s no way around it.”
VAWA was the third time this year that the Republican leadership violated the so-called Hastert Rule by bringing legislation up for a floor vote without the support of a majority of Republicans. The other two instances were to avoid the fiscal cliff and to provide disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“The Republican Party must be a governing party, and the Republican Party must be a governing party in the House,” Dent said. “If it cannot govern on its own then it’s going to need to develop bipartisan coalitions to pass important pieces of legislation.”
The VAWA vote reflects the changed landscape since the last Congress when House Republicans, invigorated by their large new majority, rejected bipartisan governance in favor of pushing their ideological priorities. Now, facing an emboldened President Obama and Democratic Senate and with a smaller majority, House GOP leaders no longer have the luxury of catering to conservatives’ every wish.
Dent, who represents a swing district in eastern Pennsylvania, is arguably among a minority of House Republicans who have more to gain than lose politically by forging consensus with Democrats. But the balance of power appears to be tipping more in his favor. He was among a minority of Republicans who pushed for a floor vote on the Senate-passed VAWA. He voted against the House GOP version and for the Democrats’ version, arguing that the Senate bill was better and insisting the issue needed to be resolved.
“I think the Republican leadership was quite purposeful in what they were doing. They clearly wanted this issue to be resolved this week. That’s why they proceeded the way they did,” Dent said. “There’s no magic formula; I think you have to take these issues one at a time.” When it comes to VAWA, he said, “leadership clearly understood that delaying this bill any longer served no purpose and was bringing no credit to the House.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.