Karl Douglass: Tyranny of the few

October 19, 2013 

Wednesday night, House Speaker John Boehner decided to forgo the Hastert Rule and allow the bill that would end the shutdown of the federal government to come to the floor for a vote without the support of the majority of Republicans in the House. When the votes were counted, only 87 of Republicans voted in favor of the bill. 198 Democrats voted in favor, so the bill passed as a result of bipartisan support. Crisis averted.

Speaker Boehner did the right thing allowing the vote. The stakes were too high not to allow the democracy that has brought our country this far not to work. The question, however, is why did the stakes have to get so high before the majority was allowed to rule?

The bill that was passed in literally the eleventh hour on Wednesday night was not materially different from the deal that was offered to avert a shutdown on September 30. The federal employees who spent two weeks wondering when they would return to work are going to receive 100% of their back pay. The Affordable Care Act is still law -- even though the execution of the open enrollment has been abysmal.

The only thing that changed between September 30 and October 16 was the threat level. Over those 16 days, the threat level reached DefCon 4.99 repeating. It took the threat of the United States losing its position as a global power to force Speaker Boehner and the House leadership to finally relent and allow the voice of the majority to carry the day.

Our government is not supposed to work this way. When we disagree, we vote. Once we vote, majority rules.

And that goes for Senate Democrats, too. As much I have criticized Speaker Boehner for holding fast to the Hastert rule, there is also room to criticize Leader Reid for using process and procedure to prevent bills from reaching the floor of the Senate so that the voice of the majority can be heard.

Unless and until we accept that levers of power controlled by a few should never be used to silence the voice of the majority, our union will be continue to be less than perfect.

Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.

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