Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Now that Ted Cruz has proved his mettle to the right, and pissed off half of his party in the process, everyone’s looking around at each other wondering what happens next.
It’s like that moment after Bluto’s rousing speech in “Animal House,” when he storms out of the room, but instead of inspiring anyone, they all just sit there in a state of intoxicated bewilderment.
Except instead of anyone returning to the floor to rally the troops, what happens now in all likelihood is the Senate will pass a bill to extend funding for the government until mid-November, stripped of a rider to defund the healthcare law and send it back to the House.
That’s left Republicans in both the House and Senate, but particularly the House, scouring the basement for a new Obamacare rider — any rider — that they might be able to sneak in at the last minute. One that’s less contentious than a defunding measure and politically more difficult for Democrats to defeat.
Back in August, I predicted that Republicans would pick a sleeper fight with Democrats over stripping healthcare compensation from both members and their aides. That measure was introduced by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and thanks to Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who wants to extend the idea to the president, vice president and political appointees, it’s getting a closer look.
The idea is punitive and mean for all the reasons I noted in the article — an attack on a bunch of middle-income staffers disguised as an attempt to stick it to Democrats and rein in President Obama. Members of both parties hate it. But it’s also something members of both parties would have a hard time voting against.
There are a couple of other options, none of which would do the healthcare law any real harm, but all of which would be extremely annoying, and test Democrats’ determination to end these sorts of last-minute muggings. The purpose would be as much to extract an ounce of flesh from Democrats, as to claim a victory in the government shutdown fight, and to reestablish a precedent that Republicans get to take a swat at the healthcare law every time the country faces a crucial budget deadline.
The problem for Republicans is that they’re procedurally limited in the Senate, and incompetent in the House.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he supports the Vitter amendment. But he would need 60 votes to actually add it to the government funding bill. And that’s if Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t shut down the amendment process — a maneuver called “filling the tree” — before McConnell has a chance to offer it.
House Speaker John Boehner faces fewer obstacles in theory, but in practice his members are a disaster. House aides have been floating all kinds of trial balloons — from non-starters like a year-long delay of the individual mandate, to the Vitter amendment, to a one-week stopgap bill to keep the hope of some larger concession alive, to simply passing whatever the Senate sends back. If there’s a larger strategy behind splatter painting options across the pages of the national political media hoping it will create something salable, I don’t know what it is. It’s not even clear that Boehner has the votes to pass a spending bill if he tacks something onto it that estranges Democrats.
But even if he does, he’ll be fighting both the calendar and the fact that Democrats have the power — as they’re demonstrating right now — to strip riders like these on a straightforward, simple-majority basis. If he amends the spending bill and it fails in the House, he’d humiliate himself and his leadership team (again!) and possibly trigger a brief government shutdown. If he sends an amended bill back to the Senate he could walk away with a consolation trophy like the Vitter amendment. But he’ll also run a similar risk — a brief government shutdown to his name and nothing to show for it.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)