Saturday, September 21, 2013

Smiling All the Way To Armageddon

Reading Jamelle Bouie's piece in The Daily Beast, it occurred to me that what the House Republicans are doing - forcing a shutdown of the government and/or possibly defaulting on the debt over Obamacare - may seem completely irrational, irresponsible and reprehensible to most Americans - maybe even to a few of their more rational Senate colleagues - the simple and undeniable truth is that it is unlikely to exact a penalty in the upcoming midterm elections.

"The public might hate Tea Party politicians and their budgetary brinksmanship, but next year, when the House of Representatives is up for reelection, the most absolutist Republicans—the Louie Gohmerts of the world—are almost certain to keep their seats. After all, they represent voters who want a showdown with Obama, and—likewise—would rather crash the economy then raise the debt limit."

And that's the problem in a nutshell, pun intended. Thanks to gerrymandering, House Republicans don't fear the repercussions of a shutdown or default; rather they fear what would happen if they backed down. The normal checks and balances that exist in the Senate simply don't apply to them.

There are maybe 15 to 20 House seats that are in genuine swing districts. Most of the 435 seats in the House are locked in and among those that are in Republican control, some 45 seats are occupied by Tea Party purists whose constituents have made it abundantly clear how they feel about Obamacare and, more importantly, how they feel about any representative who doesn't share their sentiments. Even if they wanted to - which they don't - they wouldn't dare bite the hand that feeds them. If nothing else, their hearing is quite good.

The result is that these 45 or so Republicans have basically taken over the entire chamber and made passage of any meaningful legislation virtually impossible. If John Boehner doesn't acquiesce to their demands they simply vote "no." They are very good at voting "no." It is what they do best. The farm bill died because of them. Despite GOP claims that Democrats left them in the lurch, it was their own caucus that did them in. The same can be said for immigration reform. You can kiss that baby goodbye as well.

And now these same Tea Party purists have decided that Obamacare must go, no matter the cost to the country. And they have "persuaded" their comrades in arms to join them as they collectively jump over the cliff. Boehner and his majority leader Eric Cantor are merely doing the heavy lifting for this lot. It is doubtful that either of them truly believe this hair-brain scheme will succeed.

Harry Reid will simply strip away the defund language, pass the CR - which he only needs a simple majority to do - and throw it back into Boehner's lap. At which point, the Speaker will have to decide whether to break the Hastert rule once again and, in the process, lose his speakership, or play along with this twisted game of Russian Roulette that his caucus wants.

Regardless of what he does, this much is certain: the Tea Party isn't going anywhere anytime soon. So long as Republicans continue to hold a majority in the House, the Tea Party will continue to dominate them, unabated and unchecked. They are fearless of any consequences and contemptuous of any one or anything that stands in their way.


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