Tuesday morning, the National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru reported that House Republicans “may pass” their proposal to end the shutdown, prevent default and exact certain concessions from Democrats, “and then skip town.” The implicit threat being that President Obama and the Senate could either take what the House Republican caucus is offering, or they can watch the American economy tumble into the chaos of a debt default.
Such a gambit, however, is unlikely to succeed — at least if the House GOP’s goal is to be far away from Washington when the bottom falls out. The Constitution gives President Obama a way to reconvene Congress, and the House rules enable Leader Nancy Pelosi’s caucus to bring Republicans back to the Capitol to do their job.
Of course, House Republicans are nothing if not prone to defy this President, but the House rules account for the very circumstance where lawmakers try to prevent the lower house of Congress from operating by refusing to show up to work. Under those rules, “[i]n the absence of a quorum, a majority comprising at least 15 Members . . . may compel the attendance of absent members.” Once such a vote takes place, the House Sergeant-at-Arms may send officers “to arrest those Members for whom no sufficient excuse is made and shall secure and retain their attendance.” So if House Republicans try to flee town, they can be kept at work by force of law.