$50 billion Sandy relief bill somehow passes House with just 49 Republican votes

I remember some consternation in the media a few weeks ago after Boehner split the original $60 billion relief package into two smaller bills that this meant the GOP was going to gut part of it. Absurd. Did anyone seriously believe Boehner et al. would risk more bad press by stripping out the pork after Chris Christie threw a big tantrum about how evil his own party was for even delaying the initial vote?

I hereby retract my skepticism that the GOP leadership collectively has no balls.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives approved measures Tuesday to send more than $50 billion in aid to the Northeastern states ravaged by Superstorm Sandy last fall, though some conservatives in the House were pushing for spending cuts that would offset the cost of the recovery package…

One of those voted upon – introduced by Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina – called for all of the Sandy aid funding to be completely counterbalanced by equivalent spending cuts. Previously, emergency aid packages, including several measures funding relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina that hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, have been passed in Congress without matching spending reductions.

The Mulvaney amendment, however, failed to pass the House Tuesday afternoon.

Seventy-one Republicans voted against Mulvaney’s amendment, which was more than enough to bury it with heavy Democratic support. The final bill passed 241-180, with 179 Republicans — nearly four-fifths of the caucus — voting no. There was a lot of chatter last year before the fiscal-cliff vote that Boehner wouldn’t bring bills to the floor that didn’t have the support of a majority of his own caucus (the so-called “Hastert Rule”). Fast-forward a few weeks and he’s now allowing votes on bills that face supermajority opposition from the GOP. Looks like he’s feeling awfully good about his leverage after being reelected Speaker. Presumably tonight’s vote was his way of signaling to the tea partiers in the caucus that, if push comes to shove, he’ll let Democrats pass a debt-ceiling hike with help from Republican centrists too. There’s not much conservative members could do to punish him for that; he already has the worst job in Washington. The cruelest thing they could do to him is elect him to another term.

Update: Among those 49 yes votes, by the way: Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy.