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Boehner hands Democrats another gift: Reviving their 2012 coalition

In the first few weeks of the 113th Congress, while collective memory of the November election was still fresh, Speaker John Boehner responded to Senate action on a bunch of different legislative items -- the "fiscal cliff" tax bill, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy, etc. -- by (eventually) putting them on the House floor and getting out of the way.

The pattern suggested to Democrats that the key to forcing action in the Republican House was to build bipartisan coalitions for certain key bills in the Senate and then relying on political pressure -- constituent and interest group activism, media narrative building -- to overcome the GOP leadership's reflexive inertia.

But Dems took the wrong lesson from those early weeks. It wasn't just that Boehner, et al, were more responsive to public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a losing election (though they probably were) but that the items they folded on were all essentially deadline driven.

VAWA authorization had lapsed. A hurricane hit the east coast. All of the Bush tax cuts were about to expire. That's the pattern they should've recognized. The reasoning that led them to believe it extended to proactive issues was misguided, and failed them pretty exquisitely when the House shrugged off Senate-passed immigration reform legislation.

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