"There's broadening recognition that without us, nothing's going to get passed," said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va. "That flies in the face of conventional wisdom about minorities in the House."
"No one should be taking House Democrats for granted," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., "because House Democrats do hold the balance on many of these important votes."
But how often Boehner will allow legislation to move to the floor for adoption without his most conservative votes is an open question. So far, he has mostly reserved the maneuver for fiscal deadlines in which Congress had to act or risk sinking the economy. He may be less likely to do so in cases such as immigration and gun control, domestic policy priorities of the White House that lack looming deadlines.
Still, Democrats say the election created a new kind of deadline for the GOP — an electoral imperative. On immigration in particular, Republican leaders have indicated the need for a shift in order to avoid alienating the nation's growing population of Hispanic voters. With many of the conservative rank and file still opposed, that creates an opening for a new coalition to form on the issue.