Every Friday, our Henry Decker bravely sifts through the dredges of America’s right wing to put together “This Week In Crazy.” More often than not, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) shows up, warning about the dangers of spoon violence, or traveling to Egypt with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to congratulate the military government on an excellent coup since it involved ousting Muslims.
Louie Gohmert doesn’t represent the GOP base. He is the GOP base. He’s one bad night of sleep away from threatening to primary himself.
And this Friday, after Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave in to the scheme hatched by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), and the House voted to defund Obamacare in exchange for keeping the government open, guess who was right behind the Speaker?
Gohmert took to the floor that same day to say that he doesn’t often agree with House Republican leadership, but he was proud to stand with them in this effort to defund Obamacare.
If Gohmert’s endorsement doesn’t prove that the plot to convince President Obama to kill his own signature legislative achievement is insane, take a look at what the next step in this plan actually is.
“Rather than try to win (or at least force) a vote on defunding Obamacare, ‘defund’ proponents are now calling for conservative senators to block the very ‘defund Obamacare’ bill that just passed the House,” writes conservative David Freddoso, a vocal opponent of the strategy.
That’s right. The Senate will invariably remove the defunding language from the bill. So the next step of this plot likely involves Cruz and Lee either trying to filibuster the bill they demanded the House pass — or attempting to destroy the careers of their fellow Republican senators by inflaming the GOP base against anyone who would dare vote to fund the government without defunding Obamacare. And if that doesn’t work, Cruz will tell House Republicans to reject their own bill and start fighting over continuing resolutions that keep parts of the government open.
Here’s where you get to the dirty little secret of this plan. The goal isn’t just to shut down the government — it’s to shut down at least parts of the government for weeks or months, for however long and however many foreclosed homes of soldiers and government employees it takes to spark the telekinesis needed to get the president to give up Obamacare.
Even though it’s demented, this is actually a somewhat brave strategy. Tea Partiers are willing to risk damaging their party to stand up for what they believe in.
The biggest risk? Shutting down the government could remind people why they actually like government.
The GOP has spent the last five years explaining that the source of all evil is Washington D.C. In a shutdown, Americans will see that what mostly comes out of the government is checks — soldiers’ paychecks, Social Security checks, Medicare reimbursement checks.
The shutdowns of the 1990s turned the Republican Revolution into the Clinton re-election and the GOP’s embrace of big government.
This is why the GOP establishment hates what Cruz and Lee are plotting. Shutdown won’t stop Obamacare, instead it could enrage America at the already incredibly unpopular Republicans in Congress and give the president an excuse for any major hiccups in the initial implementation of the Affordable Care Act exchanges, which open on October 1 — the day the government would shut down.
So what the establishment is proposing is something even more demented and dangerous than what Cruz and Lee want.
They’d like Republicans to pass the continuing resolution that the House passed and that the Senate will likely pass without the “defunding Obamacare” language. They’d like conservatives to accept that this is still a huge win for their side because it is: The bill makes the sequester cuts to education, research and social services even worse, while restoring some of the cuts to the military.
Then they’d like Republicans to refocus their fight on the debt limit, which we will hit in mid-October. That’s when we’ll get Obama to delay Obamacare for a year!
This is like saying to someone with a heart problem: Don’t stop taking your medication; think about getting rid of your pacemaker, or at least stop breathing.
GOP leaders love this strategy because the public doesn’t understand the debt limit and they think the horrors of an actual default could force the president to buckle under without anyone missing any checks, even though he has vowed not to do so.
Of course, Gohmert doesn’t believe you need to raise the debt limit or risk catastrophe. He isn’t alone in this magical thinking.
“Technically, it’s not possible to default because there’s always enough revenue to cover the interest,” Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) recently said. “If we defaulted it was because the president chose to default, not because we ran out of money.”
The only way to prove the Gohmerts and the Flemings wrong would be to actually default on our debt. That would show them that the thousands of points the stock market lost in the last debt ceiling crisis wasn’t a figment of the liberal media’s imagination.
The difference between what Cruz is threatening and what the establishment wants to threaten is thousands of foreclosed homes versus hundreds of thousands.
For years the leaders of the Republican Party have toyed with their base to the point that they don’t trust their own party. Now that they’ve finally been given the fight they want, forcing them to compromise to keep the government open will only feed their desire for an end times-like battle.
If the GOP base doesn’t get the fight they want over a government shutdown, they’ll demand it over a debt limit. If that’s the fight we have to have, a government shutdown first will help voters see what happens when Louie Gohmert gets what he wants.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com