The bill the Senate passed Friday afternoon doesn’t fund the government at the level Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) laid out in his budget earlier this year — because even Republicans decided it was an insane number that only makes sense within the fictional world of Ayn Rand. However, it does keep the brutal cuts to education, research and assistance to the poor that Republicans “won” the last time they held the economy hostage.
Despite this, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has lost… control of his caucus.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is now Ayatollah Khomeini to Boehner’s Hassan Rouhani. The Speaker has become an elected figurehead who can’t make actual policy.
Cruz’s power is enforced by a group The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza calls “the Suicide Caucus.” These 80 members are from predominantly white, rural districts that represent about 18 percent of the country. These are districts the GOP would likely win if they nominated an actual elephant, as long as it opposed abortion and was named “Reagan.”
This caucus forced Boehner to accept Cruz’s “Defund Obamacare” plot, even though the Speaker declared Obamacare “the law of the land” after President Obama was re-elected.
And these kamikazes proved their power again this weekend by rejecting the Senate’s bill. Instead they demanded a delay of Obamacare for a year, a repeal of the law’s medical device tax and a “conscience clause” that would allow employers to deny their female employees birth control coverage all be added to the bill before being sent back to the Senate.
Led by Cruz and the Suicide Caucus, House Republicans are ready to shut down the government. Why? They believe Americans will hate Obamacare more than they hate a government shutdown.
“I’m not concerned about personal impact, I’m more concerned about the personal real impact of my constituents and this law,” Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), a leader of the Suicide Caucus, said on Saturday. “I made a commitment in August [that] I would do everything I could to protect them from it.”
But, of course, a shutdown wouldn’t stop Obamacare, as Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has been trying to tell his fellow Republicans forever.
The “thinking” behind this “delay” plan is that in a year Republicans will control the Senate and THEN they can repeal the Affordable Care Act. This would have to also include impeachments of President Obama and Vice President Biden. At that point, why not just officially make Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) Speaker so he can be the president who gets to repeal Obamacare, because isn’t that what the Bible foretells in the special King Wingnut version?
A quick examination of this “logic” reveals there is no logic to this plot, other than to prevent one thing from happening — compromise. Hilariously, 42 percent of GOP primary voters say that Republicans have already compromised “too much” with Democrats.
Though Tea Partiers think they love the Constitution — or at least the Second and Tenth amendments — they are an insurgency not just against big government, but the entire construction of the American government as conceived by James Madison.
“At the end of the day, the Madisonian framework asks not that participants like compromising but that they do it — and, above all, that they recognize the legitimacy of the system that makes them do it,” Jonathan Rauch wrote recently in National Affairs. “It asks them to acknowledge that the compromise-forcing constitutional structure is principled and admirable, even if some particular compromises are not.”
Republicans on the state and national levels have adopted the Tea Party’s outright embrace of sabotage over compromise, much as segregationists did after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, notes The New Yorker‘s Atul Gwande.
Compromise isn’t just the central pillar of our government, it’s practically a religion in this society. Look at any poll and you’ll see that the percentage of Americans who think compromise is important is twice that of those who say sticking to values should be the priority. But those percentages basically flip when you ask Tea Partiers the same question.
This is why Speaker Boehner wanted his caucus to focus on the debt limit — one thing that President Obama has vowed to never compromise on… again. But the Suicide guys wanted a conflict now, as the Obamacare exchanges are about to open.
Of course the stakes of a debt limit default are much higher than a government shutdown. The latter will slow the already slow recovery, the former will shatter it. Raising the debt limit is only a compromise if Republicans want to crash the economy.
Maybe it’s lucky that the Speaker has lost control of his members. Many, including me, think a government shutdown is far preferable to a debt limit standoff
A government shutdown would lead to headlines like this “GOVERNMENT CLOSED, OBAMACARE OPEN” or “CONGRESS GETS PAID, SOLDIERS DON’T” or “GOP SHUTS DOWN GOVERNMENT OVER BIRTH CONTROL.”
This is the kind of press that may convince the majority of Republicans who aren’t in the Suicide Caucus to govern like a party that actually has to win contested elections.
Boehner was right when he said Obamacare is the law of the land. Now he’s stuck catering to Cruz’s whims, even though the junior senator from Texas has said that a delay isn’t good enough. He will only support a bill that defunds Obamacare.
Cruz and the Tea Party have no interest in governing. This is why the Tea Party’s popularity is near its all-time low. Eventually Boehner will have to disappoint them and admit Obamacare is going to happen, or risk financial catastrophe.
The Speaker has proven he’s willing to risk your job to save his speakership. Maybe now he’s willing to risk his title to stop Ted Cruz from leading the GOP into actual suicide.
Photo: House GOP Leader via Flickr.com