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Power Struggles in U.S. House Leave Opening for Independent Caucus to Sway Legislation

by David Yee, published

Update: On Friday, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner announced that he will retire at the end of October. He is resigning both his speakership and his House seat.


While politicians on both sides of the political extreme usually grab most of the headlines, centrist Republicans of the Main Street Partnership (RMSP) have urged party leadership to avoid a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding.

Both House and Senate leadership are keen to avoid a shutdown, yet far right elements of the the party, namely the House Freedom Caucus, have insisted on a shutdown strategy--even without any chance of overriding a promised presidential veto.

Shutdown strategies are largely unpopular with voters, primarily because of the economic repercussions that shock the entire economy.

Both S&P and Moody's placed the price tag of the last government shutdown at over $23 billion in lost economic activity, something everyone should be leery of repeating.

The 65-member centrist RMSP's stance almost completely ensures that a bipartisan "clean" bill could easily pass both the House and Senate if presented.

The real issue, though, is the power of any centrist bloc in the House and Senate that is willing to work with both parties to advance legislation for the good of the country.

While the House Freedom Caucus has similar numbers, their power to sway legislation is limited because of their political inflexibility. Their power comes from rallying the Republican party to their causes, not by rallying common appeal.

This move by the RMSP is encouraging, because policy and law should come from common ground, not fringe politics and pet projects.

So why does the far-right have so much power in this process?

It's all about the ability to sway policy by the threat of removing support of the current House leadership--a party coup so to speak--which gives the vocal minority more political power than they ought to possess.

What's truly sad about this strategy is the fact that while the far-right might be able to oust House Speaker John Boehner, their chances of getting a speaker that is within their own ilk is practically zero.

That is, they could have enough power to dethrone (or at least threaten) a speaker, but not enough power to sway internal policy making their direction after the coup.

Thankfully, centrist elements of the Republican Party are forcing this issue to a close, one that will hopefully avoid a government shutdown, while also creating as little government instability as possible.

For independents, this should be a rallying cry for the potential power of an independent centrist bloc within the government, and the power they could possess in determining policy. Because when policy and lawmaking emanate from the center, Americans as a whole win.

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