Marc Levy has the most important read of the PA budget season, on the Republicans’ “majority of the majority” tactic that’s preventing a budget from getting passed.
Simply put, the “majority-of-the-majority” rule means legislation cannot get a floor vote unless most Republican lawmakers support it. And many Republicans, particularly the most conservative, want to see their leaders adhere to that rule this time around, as Wolf pursues what opponents call Pennsylvania’s biggest tax increase in history.
“I absolutely do,” said Rep. Justin Simmons, R-Lehigh. Otherwise, he said, “I would feel like they are selling us out.”
Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, said he thinks his fellow Senate Republicans support the rule and should their leaders not observe it, they “would alienate a lot of people in the caucus.”
That rule, plus much larger and more conservative Republican majorities than Rendell faced 12 years ago, could make it harder for Wolf to win passage of the package of tax increases he wants to finance a record boost in public school aid and wipe out a long-term budget deficit.
In the 2003 tax vote, Democrats cast 90 of the 134 “yes” votes in the House and Senate. A combined 89 Republicans voted “no,” while 44 voted “yes.”
This year, a majority of the majority rule suggests that 77 Republicans will need to sign on, counting two House districts that are likely to seat a Republican in special elections on Aug. 4.
The reason this story is important is because it has major implications for whether the public blames Tom Wolf or the right wing of the Republican Party for the budget stand-off.
There is an inaccurate version of this story that says only that Tom Wolf does not have the votes to pass his priorities in the legislature.
But if the Republican leadership brought Tom Wolf’s proposed severance tax up for an up-or-down vote of the full legislature tomorrow, it would almost certainly pass.
The trouble is that Republican leadership is refusing to let the severance tax get an up-or-down vote of the full legislature, since it does not enjoy majority support within the Republican caucus.
The path to victory in the full legislature involves getting all Democrats plus the suburban southeast and northeast Republicans who ran on their support for a severance tax and restoring school funding cuts.
What the “majority of the majority” tactic (called the Hastert Rule in Washington) does is change the median vote needed to win support for the severance tax from a southeast suburban Republican to a western PA or center state Republican from gas country.
The thing is, we know how this plays out. The tea people have played this game with Obama like a dozen times now and they’ve lost every time.
That’s because Wolf and Obama both enjoy veto power, and Tom Wolf has made clear he’s going to veto any budget that doesn’t deliver on his three big priorities: severance tax, restoring education cuts, and property tax relief.
To override that veto, Republicans need a two-thirds vote of the legislature. As long as Democrats all hang tight, that’s not going to happen.
So, as John Boehner has done many times now, the Republican leadership is going to have to abandon “majority of the majority” and let the budget pass with all Democrats + the more reasonable Republicans.