By Ernest A. Canning on 1/5/2013, 2:07pm PT  

"I didn't leave the Republican Party, it left me." – Former FL Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, 9/6/2012

"Anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined." - Rep. Peter King (R-NY), 1/2/2013.

In the wake of the Jan. 1, 2013 decision by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to postpone a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief until after the 113th Congress was sworn in, NY Rep. Peter King's sense of betrayal, which he described as "a knife in the back" in a remarkable floor speech, is understandable, but his proposed remedy is woefully deficient.

The only way that Republicans in an entire region of the country --- the Northeast --- can achieve meaningful representation in the 113th Congress may be by way of a massive party switch. The increasingly rare breed of "moderate House Republicans" may soon only be left with the choice of emulating the late Sen. Arlen Specter's 2009 party switch, by either becoming Democrats or by becoming independents who will caucus with the Democrats.

Of course, that didn't work out terribly well for Specter either...

Under Boehner's leadership, the U.S. House generally acts (the so-called "fiscal cliff" bill not withstanding) under what's known as the Hastert Rule --- named after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) --- in which the Speaker will not allow a measure to come to a vote unless it is supported by a "majority of the majority" which, as of now, is still the Republican Caucus.

Six of the ten Northeast States (VT, ME, MA, RI, CT, and NH) did not elect a single House Republican in 2012. Only one of Maryland's eight representatives is a Republican. New York elected 27 members of the House --- only six are Republicans. New Jersey's twelve member House delegation is evenly divided, six Republicans and six Democrats. Pennsylvania is the only state in the entire region which, thanks to gerrymandering, features a Republican majority, 13-5, in the U.S. House.

That math presents an ever tightening noose, and a test of character for GOP members from the Northeast.

Political analysts have understood for some time that the threat of a billionaire-funded "Tea Party" primary has forced moderate Republicans to choose between their principles and political survival. But the abrupt postponement of the Sandy relief measure on the final day of the 112th Congress underscored that the divisions within the GOP entail not only differences between a dwindling number of moderates and "Tea Party" radicals, but stark regional differences as well.

Just as Sandy proved a test of character for Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), so too the postponement of Sandy relief --- and ultimate passage of a vastly scaled-back relief package on the first day of the 113th Congress --- now presents a test of character both for Northeast Republicans and those GOPers who placed nation before party in voting to approve the "fiscal cliff" deal.

Either moderate and Northeast Republicans abandon all sense of principle, and the health of their own communities, by caving to the radical elements which have overtaken their party, or they follow the dictates of conscience and the practical realization that the only sure way to evade a "Tea Party" primary is by switching parties.

If, nationwide, 17 moderate Republicans made the switch, Democrats would regain the majority and sanity might be restored.

But, of course, those who switch from R to D, or even R to I, may find themselves pushed out of Congress all together nonetheless, just as Specter was.

Either way, there are difficult days ahead for the dwindling GOP moderates and Northeast Republican caucus, as they find themselves increasingly in a minority of the majority...

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Video of Rep. Peter King's 1/2/2013 denunciation of Speaker Boehner's postponement of vote on Hurricane Sandy relief follows...

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.

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