Skip to content

Editor’s Note: Congress and the coalition-curious

The legislative branch and public might be polarized, but bipartisanship springs up

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, left, and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., conduct a photo op before a meeting in the Capitol on Thursday.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, left, and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., conduct a photo op before a meeting in the Capitol on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congress might be as evenly divided as the public, but that doesn’t mean there is not room for surprise in the Capitol.

The Senate’s dispensing with House impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday reflected the legislative branch’s nearly even split. After the House voted on Feb. 13, 214-213 to impeach Mayorkas, the Senate set aside those two articles of impeachment on 51-48 and 51-49 votes.

Those votes seem like a good illustration of a recent Pew Research Center study that found 49 percent of those surveyed identified with the Democratic Party or leaned that way, and 48 percent identified with the Republican Party or leaned that way.

The Senate has long clung to an image as the cooling saucer for incoming hot tea from the House. That has some validity. Senators represent entire states, which can encompass liberal urban centers, conservative rural farmland and everything in between. Some members of the House get to represent confined communities handpicked to elect one party or the other and can luxuriate in an echo chamber. Tune into C-SPAN and watch committee or floor remarks in the House and one can see a lot of hot tea brewing.

For instance, the House has deposed one speaker already in the 118th Congress and some members would like to do it again.

But then along comes one of the more contentious issues, to provide a multibillion-dollar foreign aid package to Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific allies, and all of a sudden an ad hoc coalition government — or as close to one as you get in the United States — sprouts up to move things along.

Friday’s 316-94 vote on a procedural rule to set up floor debate on the aid package was extraordinary. For most of modern House history, votes on rules were partisan exercises. It was taken for granted the majority party would prevail. “We don’t whip rules,” House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., told reporters in the Capitol earlier this month.

But the House Freedom Caucus apparently does.

“The House Freedom Caucus will vote NO on rule for the ‘America Last’ foreign wars supplemental package with zero border security, and urge all House Republicans to do the same. To secure the border, we must kill the rule,” a Thursday “HFC Official Position” stated.

Because the Freedom Caucus in particular has shown a willingness to vote against party leaders when its members are not on board with legislation, this Congress has seen rule votes become less consistently an expression of the majority party’s will.

Friday’s vote showed broad support in the nearly evenly divided House for the package, which most prominently would provide ammunition for Ukraine in its war against Russia. That vote breakdown, 151 Republicans and 165 Democrats in favor of the rule, and 55 Republican and 39 Democratic nays, showed that some issues do break through the partisan morass. That happened in the Senate, too. Two months ago, coincidentally on the same calendar day the House impeached Mayorkas, Feb. 13, the Senate voted 70-29 to advance a similar foreign aid package, sending it to the House.

There might be more surprises ahead courtesy of the burgeoning coalition-curious. The trendy new threat of removing the speaker — sublimely dubbed a “motion to vacate the chair” — anytime he brings up legislation not to one member’s liking is a loud, hot one that has been repeated over and over recently.

But when it comes to the actual vote itself, it might end up as so much weak tea.

Jason Dick is editor-in-chief of CQ Roll Call.

Recent Stories

Strange things are afoot at the Capitol

Photos of the week ending May 24, 2024

Getting down on the Senate floor — Congressional Hits and Misses

US-China tech race will determine values that shape the future

What’s at stake in Texas runoff elections on Tuesday

Democrats decry ‘very, very harmful’ riders in Legislative Branch bill