What do you do when the deficit is falling faster than it has in generations and the health care plan you’ve been comparing to the Holocaust/slavery/Armageddon for years is starting to look as if it will be more popular than expected?
What do you do when a large chunk of your party’s House caucus still wants to shut down the government or possibly default on the nation’s debt over the deficit and/or that health care plan?
What do you do when people in your own party are spending time and money letting Republicans know that the price of voting to keep the government functioning could be an expensive and possibly career-ending primary challenge?
In private, Republicans have begun to worry.
Off the record, some insiders have told journalists that they’re afraid to lose the House, even though the GOP should actually gain seats, the way the out party generally does after a president has been in office for six years.
Sensing his dilemma, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) did something extraordinary this week, something akin to a parent posting a positive drug test on his or her child’s Facebook page. Boehner had his pollster David Winston release a survey that shows the public overwhelmingly opposes a government shutdown. Women decisively oppose it 61 to 29 percent.
But Boehner’s problem is that this poll, the one that’s supposed to help him keep the government open, shows that one group supports a shutdown by a large margin, 63-27: very conservative voters, the people most likely to show up to vote in a primary and scream at you in a town hall meeting.
Thus is Boehner’s predicament. Republicans know Americans don’t want a shutdown, but Americans aren’t going to decide if Republican House members still have a job that comes with a free ticket to the State of the Union in 2014… primary voters are.
This has led Boehner to twist himself into all kinds of contortions to give his caucus some excuse for why they actually have to vote to fund the government beyond September 30 of this year. His latest plan involves the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester.
“The president is desperate to get rid of the sequester… so desperate that he says he’ll shut down the government if Congress follows the law and funds the government at the levels his sequester mandates,” Boehner said, according to Roll Call. “The president’s threat to shut down the government if we implement his sequester is not a defensible position. The American people won’t stand for it, and we’re not going to be swayed by it.”
This is the equivalent to the scene in The Naked Gun, when Lt. Frank Drebin responds to a suspect who has a gun to the head of a hostage by grabbing a random passerby to hold as his own hostage. Of course, in this situation, the hostage House Republicans are holding is the future of the GOP itself.