The House approved a $50 billion Sandy relief bill Tuesday evening, after several hours of contentious debate in which scores of Republicans tried unsuccessfully to cut the size of the bill and offset a portion of it with spending cuts.
Members approved the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, H.R. 152, in a 241-180 vote. Among Republicans, 179 voted against it, and just 49 voted for it, a protest against a bill that many conservatives say is too big and provides funding for things other than immediate relief for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
This normally shouldn’t happen in the House. The Speaker of the House has basically complete power over what bill ever make it to the floor and Republicans have traditionally used this to enforce a “majority of the majority” principles. The general idea is that no bill should be allowed to make it to the floor unless at least a majority of the party in control supports it.
For this to happen you need a majority of Republicans wanting to be on record voting against a bill but also afraid of being blamed for its failure. The legislative equivalence of plausible deniability. This is now the second time this month that House Republicans have dealt with a politically tricky piece of legislation by allowing it to come to the floor then voting against it. The other time was to deal with the fiscal cliff.
Speaker Boehner’s recent willingness to break the majority of the majority principle is likely making the Obama administration feel more confident about the debt limit standoff. If the House Republicans fold, it would most likely take the form of allowing a clean increase to come to the floor then having it approved with mostly Democratic votes.