Friday, September 20, 2013

GOP loses on government shutdown

By Frank Moraes

The Republicans really are divided. But it isn't between the crazy and non-crazy. It is between the nihilists and the extremists. What are normally referred to as the Tea Party are just conservatives who aren't interested in the political process and so want to send "messages." As a result, those who want to, you know, win elections, are pretty upset at what is going on in Washington right now. Bear in mind, these people are not any more interested in what is best for the country than the Tea Party is; they just recognize that explicitly trying to destroy the nation is a really bad marketing campaign for the GOP.

Byron York is a man who I almost never agree with, but he was making a lot of sense yesterday. Over at the Washington Times he wrote, Actually, Senate GOP Can't Filibuster to Defund Obamacare. It's a really good article because it explains some of the ins and outs of congressional process that I have to admit to finding mysterious. He points out that the Republicans do not have the 41 votes they need for a filibuster in the Senate. But it's worse than that. "Cruz & Co" can't even stage an old fashioned talking filibuster.

This morning, the House passed their bill of a continuing resolution (CR) along with defunding Obamacare. But as York points out, Harry Reid can just strip this out of the bill with a simple majority vote:

Then, when the defunding continuing resolution is being considered, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will propose a motion to strike the defunding provision from the continuing resolution. Senate rules allow that to be decided on a simple majority vote. Democrats will vote to strike the defunding portion and set up a final up-or-down vote on the continuing resolution, which at that point will be just a measure to fund the government, including Obamacare. There will be a simple majority vote. The measure will pass.

All this information came from a Senate Republican aide. It is very clear that a lot of Republicans are just sick of all this bullshit. The aide said, "This is not a gimmick or a scheme. It is Rule 22 of the U.S. Senate. Everybody knew this. This is an existing rule. It is taught in Senate class when you do your orientation. It is not a surprise. Nobody sprung it on [Ted Cruz]."

By Democratic standards, I'm an extremist (that is, I'm a liberal). And from time to time, I am certainly in favor of hardball tactics. For example, in the end, I think the immigration bill that Congress came up with was most likely not worth supporting. But there is a very big difference between the good extremist fight and political self-immolation. This is the major rift in the Republican Party today.

Where this goes from here, I'm not sure. But one thing is for clear: the House Republicans will not be able to claim that they passed a CR and the Senate killed it. That means that public opinion on a government shutdown is going to come down hard on the House Republicans. If the Senate had voted the House bill down, the Republicans could have framed the issue as, "The Democrats are forcing a government shutdown just for the sake of funding Obamacare." But as it is, they won't be able to say that. Instead, the Democrats will correctly claim, "The Republicans are forcing a government shutdown just for the sake of defunding Obamacare." The optics of that are really bad—so bad that Boehner may be forced to allow a clean CR vote and move onto the next (and far more dangerous) Debt Ceiling hostage crisis.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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