“Calm Before the Storm”
How much of the GOP establishment’s capitulation to the Anarchist Teabagger Visigoth extremists in the House and Senate real, and how much of it is merely reluctant posturing — to be followed by a (now delayed) capitulation / surrender, which will be dutifully given cover by symbolic votes that don’t do anything to promote the actual fight that the conservatives and grassroots activists are demanding over defunding ObamaCare?
Good question, if I do say so myself!
Jonathan Strong, NRO:
On the surface, the House GOP was in pep-rally mode as they headed into one of their most serious conflicts with President Obama since Republicans took the House in 2010.
Lawmakers have been bragging about the unity behind closed doors since Speaker John Boehner embraced the strategy of trying to defund Obamacare through the government-funding bill. And at a rally after the vote, dozens of lawmakers cheered lustily as Majority Leader Eric Cantor delivered a remarkably political speech that specifically targeted a series of vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection.
Underneath the surface, the same fault lines are still there and will inevitably come back to the fore.
Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania asked a pointed question to colleagues at the closed-door GOP conference meeting Friday morning. Sure, he said, we’re treating Speaker John Boehner like it’s Palm Sunday — laying down palm fronds and carrying him into Jerusalem.
“But will be be crucifying him a week from now?” Kelly asked.
For at least a few days, the fight will be in the Senate, where Senator Ted Cruz is starting to rally colleagues to filibuster the House bill for fear that Reid will strip its provision defunding Obamacare from it.
“Any Republican who votes for cloture is voting to fund Obamacare,” Matt Hoskins, the executive director for the Senate Conservatives Fund, said in a press release.
Yesterday, several Republicans — Bob Corker, John Cornyn, and Richard Burr — said they would vote to invoke cloture, given that when the vote occurs, it is likely to be on an intact House bill that includes the defunding provision.
Assuming Reid successfully detaches the Obamacare provision from the CR and sends it back to the House, Boehner and Cantor will face several difficult decisions.
In the meeting today, Boehner told lawmakers not to expect that the House would simply accept the bill Reid sends back. Although Boehner didn’t specify what Reid might do, the Nevada Democrat could tinker with funding levels or anything else in ways that would be unpalatable to the House GOP.
The more serious question is whether the House GOP’s right flank will accept transferring the fight over Obamacare to the debt ceiling, which the House plans to vote on for the first time next week amid the CR brinksmanship.
A very significant majority of Republicans will be fine with that, as will many of the senior conservatives. But some key players, including Representative Tom Graves of Georgia, who led the charge against Cantor’s original CR proposal, aren’t saying in public what they’ll do.
For example, Representative Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, a freshman firmly encamped with the most resolute of the hardliners, refused to comment on the GOP’s debt-ceiling plans when walking out of a meeting for which the stated purpose was to discuss the debt ceiling.
“There’s a lot to learn; right now I’m just focused on the CR,” he said.
If Boehner can successfully transition the Obamacare fight to the debt ceiling, allowing him to get a relatively clean CR through the House and staving off a shutdown, the higher-stakes debt-ceiling fight will likely pull Republicans apart on strategy questions once again.
Left unsaid by Mr Strong is why the move to tie ObamaCare to the debt ceiling fight — while passing a clean CR — will cause many TEA Party conservatives to react with complete disdain: ObamaCare won’t be defunded in any debt ceiling fight, and in fact weakens the bargaining position of the GOP.
Or, to put it another way, the GOP establishment is replaying its awful strategy that led to the tabling of cut, cap, and balance by the Senate — all so they can tell their constituents they tried without following the plan to defund ObamaCare in the CR fight, where they hold all the leverage.
Pay close attention to what the Senate does, because it will tell you exactly how the GOP establishment is thinking: are they merely going through some theater in hopes of appeasing an angry base, or do they really plan to stand united now that they understand that the base of the party — and many Democrat voters — want to see ObamaCare killed?
Allowing Reid to kill the House bill with a simple majority — while then voting themselves to defund ObamaCare – is the symbolic move that the GOP Senate is likely to try. But as we’re now more attuned to their parliamentary tricks, applying pressure to the leadership is one way to let them know that we know what it is they are up to.
Because we do. And we’re engaged. And we won’t be fooled again.