GOP brass plays party for fools

Top brass Republicans believe they can manipulate rank-and-file members into abandoning their favorite passions

Topics: Debt ceiling, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Government shutdown,

GOP brass plays party for foolsMitch McConnell listens as Rep. Michele Bachmann speaks at a press conference with Tea Party leaders on Capitol Hill in Washington May 16, 2013. (Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

It seems like whenever the GOP’s trust problem with conservatives hits a new nadir, party leaders decide the best way to fix it is by trying to dupe them.

That trust problem is severe right now because GOP leaders aren’t willing to shut down the government or default on the debt if President Obama refuses to destroy his own healthcare law. And instead of just leveling with the right, and cutting it loose, the party’s top brass is trying to manipulate rank-and-file members into voting for must-pass government funding and debt limit bills by tricking them out to disguise the fact that they’re toothless.

We saw this play out last week, when GOP leaders had to pull the plug on a bill to a government shutdown that they’d dressed up as a bill to defund the healthcare law. They’re at it again this week.

From Politico:

There is discussion in House Republican leadership circles about setting a debt ceiling vote before Sept. 30. If Republican leaders show in the next few weeks how they will use the debt ceiling to delay Obamacare, it will display that the party’s brass is serious about an all-or-nothing legislative brawl with Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama. That could help ease the passage of the continuing resolution to fund the government.

This sounds like Republican leaders are actually transferring brinkmanship to much more dangerous terrain. But they’re really just exploiting the calendar and the right’s tactical naiveté to avoid political and economic catastrophes. The debt limit deadline is a couple of weeks after the government shutdown deadline. If House conservatives agree to this plan, they’ll be setting the party up to cave on the debt limit, after they’ve already released their government shutdown hostage.

It’s a classic bait and switch. Give me what I want and the crown jewels could be yours. You can even touch them first.

Procedurally, this could play out a few ways, none of which ultimately get GOP hard-liners the Obamacare delay they want. Republicans could structure the debt limit vote the way they’ve structured the government funding bill — to automatically delink the Obamacare provision so that the Senate can consider them discretely. This is the obvious rendering of the cave — and unlikely to fool even the dimmest member of Congress.

You Might Also Like

Alternatively leaders could send the Senate a singular debt limit increase, replete with an Obamacare delay and other partisan GOP nonsense, followed by a government funding bill. Harry Reid would then leave the debt limit increase sitting on his desk, pass the bill to avoid the shutdown, and then address the debt limit bill separately. He could vote it down (likely on a bipartisan basis) or he could set up votes to strip all the nonsense out of it, which would put individual Republican senators in the uncomfortable position of choosing between fomenting a catastrophic debt default and affirmatively voting to kill a provision to defund Obamacare. The latter is akin to dressing up in a bull’s-eye-painted sandwich board. It’s perhaps the single surest way for a Republican member to invite a primary challenge. Either way, the government gets funded, the debt limit gets increased, Obamacare chugs along.

Lastly, House Republicans could pass an extreme debt limit bill, and refuse to send over the government funding measure until the Senate swallows the former. In that case Reid would shrug, the government would shut down, and Boehner would find himself in more or less the same position he’s in now, except with less time and more political baggage on his hands.

If the definition of insanity (or desperation) is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then Republican leaders are trying to cloak theirs by changing costumes between rounds.

I can’t imagine conservatives will be thrilled with any of these options. If the House leadership picks one, the usual suspects — Ted Cruz, Heritage Action, etc. — will quickly denounce it as gimmickry, and we’ll be back to square one.

Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is Salon's political writer. Email him at bbeutler@salon.com and follow him on Twitter at @brianbeutler.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Jodi Hilton

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 1

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL-- May 1, 2015--Team from Humane Society International doing assessments and rescue work in the Lalipur District outside Kathmandu where many houses collapsed and animals died during last week's earthquake.

    Jodi Hilton

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 2

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL-- May 1, 2015--Team from Humane Society International doing assessments and rescue work in the Lalipur District outside Kathmandu where many houses collapsed and animals died during last week's earthquake.

    Humane Society International

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 3

    Humane Society International’s Animal Rescue Team deployed to Kathmandu, Nepal on 30th April 2015 to offer emergency animal welfare aid following a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

    Jodi Hilton

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 4

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL-- May 1, 2015--Team from Humane Society International doing assessments and rescue work in the Lalipur District outside Kathmandu where many houses collapsed and animals died during last week's earthquake.

    Jodi Hilton

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 5

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL-- May 1, 2015--Crew from HSI doing assessments and rescue work in the Lalipur District where many houses collapsed and animals died during last week's earthquake.

    Society for Animal Welfare and Management and Animal Welfare Network Nepal

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 6

    Calf rescue in Thali, a village outside Kathmandu, Nepal following the earthquake. Photo taken 29 April 2015.

    Jodi Hilton

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 7

    Crew from HSI doing assessments and rescue work in the Lalipur District where many houses collapsed and animals died during last week's earthquake.

    Jodi Hilton

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 8

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL-- May 1, 2015--Crew from HSI doing assessments and rescue work in the Lalipur District where many houses collapsed and animals died during last week's earthquake.

    Jodi Hilton

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 9

    Rahul Sehgal, Asia director of the Humane Society International holds an orphaned baby goat in Kalitaar, an agricultural village outside Kathmandu that was severely damaged by the Nepal earthquake. Large scale damage and deaths of livestock across the country means recovery will be difficult for people who were already living below the poverty line.

    Jodi Hilton

    Nepal earthquake animal rescue

    Slide 10

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL-- May 1, 2015--Team from Humane Society International doing assessments and rescue work in the Lalipur District outside Kathmandu where many houses collapsed and animals died during last week's earthquake.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...