Government Shutdown and GOP: on Cruz control?
At a time when America’s political center has seemingly vanished, all eyes this week will be on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who many see as a key instigator in House Republicans’ effort to defund Obamacare by shutting down the government. His test will soon come when it goes to the Senate and, in true Cruz style, he’s politically repelling Democrats, and angering members of his own party with his words and political brinksmanship.
In fact, members of his own party are so concerned about what he could do the party’s image and the impact that could have on the mid-term elections that Fox News’ Chris Wallace was said he was stunned to receive opposition research on Cruz — from Republicans:
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace said Sunday morning that he’d received opposition research from other Republicans about Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in advance of Cruz’s appearance this morning, a serious indication of how upset the GOP is with the Senator leading the risky charge to defund ObamaCare.
“This has been one of the strangest weeks I’ve ever had in Washington,” Wallace said. “As soon as we listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research and questions, not from Democrats but from top Republicans, to hammer Cruz.”
Republican political maven Karl Rove — who has often locked horns with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the Tea Party was critical of Cruz:
“This was a strategy laid out by Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz without any consultation with their colleagues,” said Karl Rove. “With all due respect to my junior Senator from Texas, I suspect this is the first time that the end game was described to any Republican Senator. They had to tune in to listen to you to find out what Ted’s next step was in the strategy.”
“You cannot build a Congressional majority, in either party, for any kind of action, unless you are treating your colleagues with some certain amount of respect, and saying, ‘Hey, what do you think of my idea?’” Rove said. “Instead they have dictated to their colleagues through the media, and through public statements, and not consulted them about this strategy at all.”
Cruz is clearly widening the splitthe Republican Party split between Republican establishment types and old-style conservatives (who above all want to win) and Tea Partiers and members of what I call the “talk show political culture” which in recent years has almost controlled the GOP. The latter include fans of polarizing talk show hosts and talk show hosts themselves.
The Tea Partiers, talk show types and some of their allies in the conservative new media see shutting down the government and even allowing the United States to default on its debt limit as a valid tool to force President Barack Obama and the Democrat to give them what they could not win at the ballot box or in coalitions in Congress.
If this does succeed, there will a shift in our elections: it will diminish the importance of elections and institutionalize gridlock and perpetual partisan rancor.
The split in the GOP seems to accentuate by the day. For instance, here’s a tweet by talker Mark Levin (who calls the more traditionally conservative to moderate conservative Joe Scarborough, host of “Morning oe,” “The Morning Shmo”)
Palin is right: Chris Wallace should release the names of Republicans who urged him to trash Cruz… http://t.co/3MA5z4h6pb
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) September 22, 2013
Levin then later did another Tweet — which typifies everything that’s wrong with the current crop of new conservatives whose main way of doing politics is to lash out.
Democrat Chris Wallace, carrying RINO Rove's water, doesn't lay a glove on Cruz… http://t.co/cn5vMUgnH8
— Mark R. Levin (@marklevinshow) September 23, 2013
So Chris Wallace — who is usually acceptable to Republicans who watch Fox News — is suddenly a “Democrat” and a “RINO.”
FOOTNOTE: If Fox released the names of anonymous sources then they would likely have the participation of FEW sources in news stories in the future. And — to be sure — if the anonymous sources had given Fox News info about Harry Reid, it’s unlikely Levin would be demanding the names of the anonymous sources.
Cruz has become the poster-boy for the 21st century, hurling-down-the-gauntlet, no compromise partisan. Harold Maas, writing in The Week, notes that the GOP is saving Barack Obama at time when on several fronts he was on the ropes:
President Obama has been taking plenty of lumps from his fellow Democrats recently. Liberals in the party have blocked his former aide Larry Summers, whom Obama reportedly wanted to put in charge of the Federal Reserve, and defected when he was trying to rally support in Congress for authorizing military strikes against Syria.
Some political analysts concluded that the defections were weakening Obama just as he headed into high-stakes showdowns with the GOP over two budgetary matters: A stopgap spending measure to keep the government from shutting down on Oct. 1; and raising the borrowing limit to keep the nation from a potentially calamitous default on some of its debts.
Republicans, however, have plenty of problems of their own. House GOP leaders clashed openly with Tea Party conservatives over whether to try to use the spending battle to defund ObamaCare, even if that means shutting down the government, or even plunging the country into default. The hardcore fiscal conservatives got their way, embarrassing — and, some say, weakening — House GOP leaders who were determined to avoid any chance of a shutdown.
The result? The GOP is locked in an ugly intraparty brawl that is serving as “a lifeline for an administration that had been scrambling to gain control” of its message after Obama’s recent string of setbacks, says Jonathan Allen at Politico.
In his piece (which should be read in full) Maas concludes:
Liberals, too, think the GOP feud is making Obama and the Democrats look better to a public that is nervously watching what’s happening, and bracing for the damage these antics could do to an already shaky economic recovery. As Kirsten Powers puts it at The Daily Beast: “House Republicans’ willingness to lay waste to the country to satisfy their fringiest faction will ultimately guarantee the GOP irrelevancy as a national party, unless they change their ways. In the meantime, they seem determined to take us all down with them.”
The longer this goes on — and, in particular, if there are lots of news clips with Cruz advocating a government shutdown when voters are full aware of the 2012 election results and what each party advocated on Obamacare — the worse the Republican Party’s image will be. Forget rebranding; this is now damaging image re-affirmation. And it’s clear Democrats feel they have a side issue:
Sen. Claire McCaskill blasted Republicans on Sunday for throwing “tantrums” over President Barack Obama’s health care law.
“I don’t think in America we should throw tantrums when we lose elections and threaten to shut down the government and refuse to pay the bills,” the Missouri Democrat said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The American people had a choice last November. They had a choice between someone who said repeal Obamacare, and President Obama.”
…She singled out Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been an especially vocal advocate of defunding the law, even opposing movement on a House-approved funding measure because, he says, there is too much leeway for Obamacare funding to be added in in the Senate.
“This is about running for…president, with Ted Cruz,” McCaskill charged. “This isn’t about meaningful statesmanship. This isn’t about doing what we were sent to Washington to do, and that is, compromise and run the government.”
One phrase has now come to dominate coverage of Cruz: he’s the “most hated man in the Republican Party” — hated for flamboyant grandstanding, hated for taking pot shots the GOP establishment, and now hated (or disliked) by many House Republicans who feel he pushed the defunding Obama narrative than seemed to try to inch away from it by saying it wouldn’t pass. Saying a cause you are purportedly for and have pressed for others to take up is doomed to failure isn’t a good way to maintain enthusiasm — or credibility.
But in an extensive profile in Gentleman’s Quarterly by Jason Zengerle, it turns out that a)for all his talk about elitism Cruz was very elitist in college b)at Harvard he wouldn’t study with someone who wasn’t from Harvard or Yale or Princeton because he didn’t want to mix with people of the “minor” Ivy Leagues (that would have left me out: I went to Colgate), c)the media has only covered a tiny tip of how much Arizona Sen John McCain hates Cruz and his style. And MORE (so go to the link and read it in full).
His biggest high profile booster is someone who is utterly anathema to many women voters, independent voters, moderates, Democrats — and a good chunk of Republican professionals and establishment types (such as Karl Rove) as well: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin who has run to his defense several times now and warned that she and other will be watching who Cruz gets support from in the GOP and who he does not get support from. The latest:
Sarah Palin stepped up her support of Ted Cruz against other Republicans, calling on Fox News’s Chris Wallace to release the names of conservatives who he said sent in unsolicited opposition research on the Texas senator.
Palin, a Fox News commentator, tweeted on Sunday that “Fox News Sunday” should give up its “anonymous sources.”
@FoxNewsSunday Keep it TRULY fair & balanced. Release the GOP names encouraging you to trash @SenTedCruz. No more anonymous sources.— Sarah Palin (@SarahPalinUSA) September 22, 2013
During the roundtable discussion portion of “Fox News Sunday,” after an interview with Cruz aired, Wallace revealed during a question to Republican strategist Karl Rove about conservative animosity toward Cruz that “top Republicans” had sent him opposition research against the Texas Republican.
“This has been one of the strangest weeks I’ve ever had in Washington, and I say that because as soon as we listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research and questions not from Democrats, but from top Republicans who — to hammer Cruz,” Wallace said.
“Fox News Sunday” did not respond to Palin on its Twitter account.
It’s not surprising: Palin is one of the polarizing political figures in the Republican Party who has little appeal beyond partisans hungering for red meat. She does not persuade new voters or build new coalitions: she reaffirms and solidifies. Some think Cruz is capable of going beyond that.
Some say he has boxed himself into a corner. New York’s Jonathan Chait:
Step one of this far-fetched scheme was the passage of a “continuing resolution,” which keeps the government open, attached to abolishing Obamacare. Now it goes to the Senate. Once that bill comes up for a vote in the Senate, the majority can vote to strip away the provision defunding Obamacare. That vote can’t be filibustered. It’s a simple majority vote, and Democrats have the majority.
What Senate Republicans can do is filibuster to prevent the bill from coming to a vote at all. That’s the only recourse the Senate defunders have. And Ted Cruz is promising to do just that: “ I hope that every Senate Republican will stand together,” he says, “and oppose cloture on the bill in order to keep the House bill intact and not let Harry Reid add Obamacare funding back in.” A “committed defunder” in the Senate likewise tells David Drucker, “Reid must not be allowed to fund Obamacare with only 51 votes.”
In other words, the new stop-Obamacare plan now entails filibustering the defunders’ own bill. They can do this with just 41 votes in the Senate, if they can get them. But consider how terrible this situation is for the Republicans. If they fail, it will be because a handful of Republicans joined with Democrats to break the filibuster, betraying the defunders. This means the full force of the defund-Obamacare movement – which is itself very well funded by rabid grassroots conservatives eager to save the country from the final socialistic blow of Obamacare — will come down on the handful of Senate Republicans who hold its fate in their hands. The old plan at least let angry conservatives blame Democrats for blocking their goal of defunding Obamacare. Now the defunders can turn their rage against fellow Republicans, creating a fratricidal, revolution-eats-its-own bloodletting.
Exactly how bad is this? More Chait:
Remember, the whole Republican plan to win the shutdown fight is to pin the blame on Obama. Obama is trying to shut down the government, they are already saying, and we’re trying to keep it open. That message depends on both houses of Congress passing a law that defunds Obamacare, and Obama refusing to sign it. Then they can present themselves as having acted to keep the government open, and Obama refusing to go along merely because he doesn’t want to snatch health insurance away from 20 million people.
It’s a patently disingenuous argument that stands no chance of success. But even that patently disingenuous message relies on establishing the optics of Obama refuses to sign our bill. Now the Republican plan relies instead on maintaining a Republican filibuster in the Senate, in perpetuity, to prevent a vote on a bill to open the government. They have maneuvered themselves into the least tenable position to defend a plan that never stood a chance of succeeding in the first place.
On the other hand, Cruz will get what he clearly craves:
*He gets widepsread news coverage focused on him, him talking to the Senate, and his arguments.
*If he chooses to run for President, he will become the champion of many conservative bloggers, Tea Party members, and members of the GOP’s powerful talk radio political culture (the hosts and the audiences they can mobilize)
*The GOP has no leader and he becomes the face of the party unless by votes and quotes in news stories (and yes, anonymous ones too) it’s clear many in the party dislike or even repudiate him (unlikely).
*If he loses (he likely will) he’ll be having seen as having fought the good fight.
*If he manages to rally GOPers to keep a fillibuster going a for a very long time or have the Democrats offer something to stop him, it’d be a huge victory and it will mark a major shift in the power balance within the GOP — and a shift in the way we do our politics.
Cruz could come out of this with his political celebrity enhanced within the GOP, no matter what journalists, analysts and non-conservative, non-Republican bloggers (like me) think.
But the biggest danger to the GOP is this: he has long been a major danger to Republican rebranding, and has been compared to the late Senator Eugene McCarthy (and has a seeming resemblance to the evil dummy in the movie “Magic). And in the end he could leave a high-profile, extensively covered image of the GOP that turns off all of those except members of an ideological choir within the Republican Party who have an insatiable appetite for red meat.
In the end, they may burp — but it could cost the party in future elections.
Some Republicans look at this with dismay, disgust and say the Party is marginalizing itself. When Former Sen. Judd Gregg wrote an Op-Ed in The Hill, it was clear to whom he was referring?
Most Americans these days are simply ignoring Republicans. And they should. The self-promotional babble of a few has become the mainstream of Republican political thought. It has marginalized the influence of the party to an appalling degree.
SOME OTHER VIEWS:
—The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan:
Say what you want about Ted Cruz (and people say lots of things — both good and bad) but the Texas Republican has spent his first nine months in the Senate drastically raising his national profile with nary a slip-up along the way.
That is, until last week when Cruz found himself publicly cross-wise with House Republicans over his oft-repeated demand to give him a chance to defund Obamacare. The House passed a bill that did just that and Cruz quickly released a statement insisting that it was unlikely that he would be able to defund the law in the Senate. (He repeated that sentiment Sunday; “The House is the only body where Republicans have the majority, so the House has to lead on this,” Cruz said on “Fox News Sunday”.
House Republicans, notably, have sneered at Cruz’s assertion that he has no power to
keep the defunding provision in the legislation (“Thank God he wasn’t there fighting at the Alamo,” said Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin) and insisted publicly that the ball was now in the court of the Senate GOP.
And so, as the attention turns to the Senate this week in the ongoing fight over whether the government will remain open past Sept. 30 (it might not) and if President Obama’s health-care law will be defunded (it won’t), the question is whether Cruz can bounce back from the only major stumble he’s experienced to date.
Cruz has shown a remarkable adeptness at playing the outside game, burnishing his credentials as someone who doesn’t know or care about the ways of Washington because those ways are broken and don’t serve the public. But, this is a week in which Cruz will need to show some level of dexterity at the inside game as well. For those who would dismiss the importance of the inside game, remember that while your own party establishment probably can’t keep you from a presidential nomination, they can make it a heck of a lot harder to win one.
Cruz is a good talker, you have to give him that. But this appears to be his answer: Unless Reid agrees beforehand to Cruz’s demands, he’s going to filibuster the House bill even though it includes language defunding Obamacare.
Can he get most of the Republican caucus in the Senate to go along with this? I doubt it—not in the long run, anyway. Cruz isn’t willing to admit that a Republican filibuster against the House Republicans’ own bill would strike the American public as ridiculous, but it would. And if he starts droning on about procedural minutiae, everyone outside the Fox News faithful will tune out after a few seconds.
As for trying to blame an ensuing government shutdown on President Obama, he demonstrated once again today why that won’t work: He made it crystal clear that he was the one actively working to shut down the government unless his demand to defund Obamacare was met. Again, outside the Fox News faithful, he’s just not going to convince anyone that up is down and black is white on this. Everyone knows whose idea this has been all along.
It’s possible that Senate Republicans might stand with Cruz for a few days, just to prove their conservative bona fides. Maybe. I guess it depends on how many of them break ranks due to their sheer personal loathing of Cruz.1 But either way, they’ll let the bill go through before long.
But top Republicans publicly and privately say a filibuster could be a losing proposition. Not only would the party probably face public blame — much as it did during the last government shutdowns in 1995 and ’96 — but there is no simple exit strategy even if it succeeds.
Several key Republicans have distanced themselves from their more firebrand colleagues. A sign of the party’s public relations pretzel was clear Saturday as the conservative advocacy group Heritage Action for America urged senators to block the bill, which on Friday it had urged House Republicans to pass.
“If we could do this, we should do it. But we can’t,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said on “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
To overcome a Republican filibuster, Democrats would need at least six GOP senators — possibly more if some of their 54-member caucus defect — to reach the necessary 60-vote threshold to advance the bill. Most Senate aides think Democrats will have the votes.
Rabid Dog Ted Cruz Urges The GOP to Defund the Military in Order to Stop Obamacare http://t.co/ePuzQdG75q
— Ivan Roberson (@Ivanroberson) September 23, 2013
— POLITICO (@politico) September 23, 2013
— msnbc (@msnbc) September 23, 2013
IL Sen. Dick Durbin (D) to WMAQ on Ted Cruz: "I assume that in the course of his Harvard education he learned how to count to 60."
— Mike O'Brien (@mpoindc) September 23, 2013
Ted Cruz’s Plan For Dummies: Government Shutdown Or Bust The House GOP http://t.co/tqvl8HB0qd
— LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) September 23, 2013
Ted Cruz is the political version of an asian carp, an invasive species who seems to be gobbling up the other useful organisms in his party.
— Lizz Winstead (@lizzwinstead) September 23, 2013