As Washington grapples with the sequester, two important shifts regarding the Republican Party have occurred that are both a bit below the radar and quite important.
First, the House leadership allowed a vote that brought to the floor a version of the Violence Against Women Act that could pass: 286 to 138, with 87 Republicans and 199 Democrats voting in favor. Although Speaker Boehner has not been dogmatic about the “majority of the majority” principle (which was adapted under Speaker Denny Hastert, when the GOP controlled the White House and the Senate), it has usually been violated of late only on must-pass bills. By allowing the Democrats to get their way on legislation that now moves out of the House and onto the President’s desk, Boehner is allowing the White House to enjoy a coalition in the chamber that could lead to passage of major laws on the backs of Democratic votes on immigration and, maybe, gun control and energy.
Second, a large number of Republicans in both the House and the Senate now accept defense cuts at or near the level in the sequester. Those amounts are in line with what a majority (really, an overwhelming majority) of Democrats want, and create a majority coalition of legislators who are more budget hawks than defense hawks.
Both these changes, of course, work in the President’s favor, both politically and substantively.
Update: the “majority of the majority” principle was also violated on McCain-Feingold and stem cell votes, so there are in fact past cases of bills that aren’t “must-pass” getting a waiver.