This West Is OUR West


January 9, 2019


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Matthew Monforton

Conservatives in the Montana House supposedly saved the "Blast" Rule by compromising "temporarily" with the RINOs to tweek it from a 60-vote rule to 58 votes. In other words, when a liberal bill is killed by a House committee, it will take at least 58 members to "blast" it to the floor, thereby enabling 43 conservatives to stop liberal bills from getting a floor vote - much like 41 senators can filibuster most bills in the U.S. Senate.

So this is a big win for conservatives in the Montana House, right?

Wrong. In order for the blast rule to work (whether it's a 58-vote rule, 60-vote rule, or 99 vote-rule), there needs to be a "kill" committee - i.e., a committee in which trustworthy conservatives constitute a majority (traditionally, House Judiciary). When the House Speaker is confronted with a liberal bill that is supported by 42 Dems and at least 9 RINOs, he can assign the bill to the kill committee. After conservatives on the kill committee table (or kill) the bill, Dems & RINOs need a super majority to bring that bill to the floor. That used to be 60 votes. Now it's 58 votes, which is still a high hurdle.

The catch is that the Speaker has to have a reliable kill committee. If there isn't one, and the bill gets passed by the committee it's assigned to, the blast-rule can’t be used to kill it. Instead, the bill goes to the floor and can be approved by a simple majority of 51 votes.

Thus, for conservatives to run the House, they need BOTH a super-majority blast rule (preferably 60-votes, but 58 is ok) AND a kill committee. If either component is lacking, then 42 Dems and 9 RINOs effectively run the House.

In other words, requiring a super-majority to "blast" a bill to the floor if the bill is killed in committee is no hindrance to Dems & RINOs if the bill can't be killed in committee to begin with.

That, unfortunately, is exactly what MTGOP House members have agreed to. Before today, the Speaker's authority to assign representatives to committees as well as assign bills to committees (or unilaterally kill them by keeping them in his desk) could not be overruled by a simple majority. That, more than anything, is what gave the Speaker real power.

Today's compromise allows a simple majority of 51 (e.g. 42 Dems + 9 RINOs) to reassign a bill that the Speaker sends to House Judiciary and divert it to a RINO-controlled committee. The bill can then be passed by that committee and, when it gets to the floor, passed by the same group of 51 reps. Or similarly, 42 Dems + 9 RINOS can vote to reassign conservatives off of a kill committee and replace them with RINOs.

Put more simply, today's compromise allows Dems and a handful of RINOs to bypass the Blast Rule entirely.

I recognize that the math is what it is. There are 42 Dems, and at least 12 and perhaps as many as 16 RINOs. Conservatives are going to lose either way. Speaker Hertz, however, has a duty to take a stand on behalf of the conservatives who made him Speaker. If RINOs are going to help Bullock get his agenda passed, and thereby bolster his 2020 POTUS campaign (or his 2020 challenge of Steve Daines), Hertz should force them on the record every step of the way, starting this week.

Instead, if this "compromise" is finalized on Friday, it will be an even worse cave-in than the 6-silver bullet crap that then-Speaker Austin Knudsen agreed to in 2015. In that session Bullock, House Dems, & RINOs passed their 6 top priorities, such as Obamacare, the CSKT compact, & the "Dark Money" Act. Knudsen couldn't have stopped them, but he could at least have forced them to go on record and openly side with the Dems, thereby undermining their chances for re-election. Instead, conservatives and RINOs agreed to a "compromise" in 2015 that gave Bullock everything he wanted without ever forcing RINOs to go on record and explain themselves to their voters.

History is apparently going to repeat itself. Speaker Hertz is agreeing to have his speakership emasculated. Conservatives are (again) forfeiting their power to stop any bill from getting out of the House. Bullock is (again) about to get his agenda passed in time to begin his campaign against Trump...or Daines. And, the RINOs engineering this betrayal are (again) doing so without being held accountable.

I'd love to hear from Theresa Manzella, Brad Tschida, Alan Doane, Seth Berglee or one of the other true conservatives left in the House. Please show me that I'm overlooking something and I'll be happy to revise or remove this post. Otherwise, the way things look now is that the first week of the 2019 legislative session, like the first week of the 2015 session, is a harbinger of retreats and defeats for conservatives.