The Republican Party is in disarray in the wake of the shutdown it created. The only question that remains: How soon until they cave?
As the government shutdown heads towards the weekend the Republican Party is quite simply, a mess. After spending months psyching themselves up for it, they seem incredibly unprepared for what do after the government actually shut down. To make matters worse for the GOP, the Democrats have shown remarkable unity while many Republican members of Congress are now breaking with Speaker John Boehner. The future is notoriously hard to predict but it seems almost certain that Republicans will fold sometime in the future.
One of the strangest aspects of this round of hostage-taking is that the hostage takers seem genuinely confused about what the ransom will be. House Republicans settled on the strategy of trying to extort concessions from President Obama by threatening to shut down the government or breach the debt ceiling earlier this year. They then spent all summer arguing about what the ransom should consist of. First, they wanted to delay Obamacare and then just delay the individual mandate part of it. Then they issued a long list of demands that covered basically every policy priority of the Republican Party. And now they seem just hopelessly confused. Recently, Indiana Congressman Marlin Stutzman told the Washington Examiner that, “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
The ugly reality might be that Republicans actually don’t have a clue why they shut down the government.
In addition to confusion in the ranks, House Republicans have to deal with the fact that they have few if any allies. The media has largely forsworn the typical narrative of “both sides do this sort of thing” and instead have focused heavily on Republicans being the cause of the shutdown. Editorial boards all of the country have had a field day lambasting the GOP with middle America papers like The Salt Lake Tribune saying, “ [T]he idea that Obamacare is such a threat that it would be worth a government shutdown or, much worse, a refusal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling later this month, borders on the insane.” And then The Denver Post simply said, “This is a battle Republicans cannot win.”
Finally, more and more Republican members of Congress are publicly stating their willingness to pass a continuing resolution without stipulations about Obamacare — or any other demand for that matter — to re-open the government. Right now 21 members have already gone on the record to support a clean continuing resolution and only 17 yes votes would be needed to pass such a measure if all the Democrats also voted yes. There are undoubtedly more Republicans willing to also vote for a clean continuing resolution but unwilling to state so publicly out of fear of a Tea Party primary challenge next year.
All this doesn’t mean that John Boehner and the Republicans will throw in the towel this minute. In fact, the rules of the House mean that Boehner can refuse to let a vote be taken on a clean CR even though that’s what a growing bipartisan majority in Congress wants. But day by day and hour by hour the Republican position becomes more and more untenable and more and more GOP members defect. The only questions that remain:
How much longer the shutdown will last? How much damage to the country will it cause?
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP