If members of Congress weren’t paid for days the government is closed and they had no way to recoup the money, there would be no shutdown. And if you’re not making a sacrifice, you’re not making a stand. Of course, the GOP is sacrificing something huge–its last claim to being more than a fringe party–but that sacrifice isn’t intentional. There are three possible reasons for the shutdown:
- They Think They’ll Win. While this clearly makes no sense to you or I or anyone with any level of sanity, it’s possible that a party, cloistered from the majority or just good sense, thinks somehow Obamacare is going away because of this gambit. Not likely that too many of them believe it, but possible at least for some of the more flat-earth Republican reps.
- They’re Putting Personal Gain Ahead Of the Party. Oval office in 2016 be damned, the Republicans in Congress are more concerned with fundraising in their own districts so that they can remain in power. For a party that says it hates the government, these are people who will sell out any potential national ticket in the next national election to out-wingnut future contenders who might challenge them in primaries. This is almost certainly true to some extent.
- They’re a Poorly Organized and Suicidal Party. I wrote several times during the 2012 Presidential campaign that I disagreed with the prevailing wisdom that Republicans would have no alternative but to return to normalcy if President Obama was reelected. (Obama himself used this reasoning during a debate.) That never was going to happen because it’s no longer a party based on strategy or reason. John Boehner has no authority because there is no authority in anarchy. The GOP is a protest party now and nothing more. And when tens of millions of Americans newly have health insurance with no death panels, no sky falling, this shutdown will be ever more damning. Until all power is lost, the GOP will not remake itself, will not be viable again. It’s not just common sense that works against them–it’s demographics as well.
The opening of Ezra Klein’s new Wonkblog interview with National Review journalist Robert Costa:
Walk me through the math of the House GOP a bit. Most people seem to think Boehner has around 100 members who largely back him and don’t want a shutdown, and it’s a much smaller group, a few dozen or so, who want to take this to the brink. So why doesn’t Boehner, after trying to do it the conservative’s way as he has been in recent weeks, just say, we’re voting on a clean CR now, as that’s what the majority of the House Republican majority wants?
Ever since Plan B failed on the fiscal cliff in January and you saw Boehner in near tears in front of his conference, he’s been crippled. He’s been facing the consequences of that throughout the year. Everything from [the Violence Against Women Act] to the farm bill to the shutdown. The Boehner coup was unsuccessful but there were two dozen members talking about getting rid of him. That’s enough to cause problems. Boehner’s got the veterans and the committee chairs behind him, but the class of 2010 and 2012 doesn’t have much allegiance to him.
The thing that makes Boehner interesting is he’s very aware of his limited hand. Boehner doesn’t live in an imaginary world where he thinks he’s Tip O’Neill and he can bring people into his office and corral them into a certain vote. So he treads carefully, maybe too carefully. But he knows a clean CR has never been an option for him.
But why isn’t it an option? A few dozen unhappy members is an annoyance, but how is it a threat? Wouldn’t Boehner be better off just facing them down and then moving on with his speakership?
So there are 30 to 40 true hardliners. But there’s another group of maybe 50 to 60 members who are very much pressured by the hardliners. So he may have the votes on paper. But he’d create chaos. It’d be like fiscal cliff level chaos. You could make the argument that if he brought a clean CR to the floor he might have 100-plus with him on the idea. But could they stand firm when pressured by the 30 or 40 hardliners and the outside groups?”•