Each of the conferences is charting its own course to end the saga and evade a debt limit crisis on Oct. 17. But after two weeks of intraparty turmoil, neither side seems to trust the other about what the way out should look like.The battle lines are drawn. What looks like a intraparty fight between the two legislative chambers is in reality the first salvo of the Republican establishment against the Tea Party Frankenstein they have themselves created. The House GOP caucus is completely under Tea Party control; the Senate GOP is far less so, primarily because candidates who have to claim that they are "not witches" or talk about "Second Amendment remedies" have a tough time getting elected statewide in states not named Texas.
The lines are so crossed that GOP senators asked President Barack Obama during a White House meeting on Friday to fill them in on the House plan, senators attending the meeting said. They simply hadn’t seen it.
The divide is so deep that Senate Republicans would rather cut a deal with the White House and hang Boehner out to dry than talk to the enabler-in-chief this of Tea Party addiction:
Asked if he’d rather see the Senate GOP cut a deal with the White House rather than the House, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) responded: “Given what we’ve seen so far, yes.”The reaction of House Republicans? In a word, bitter.
“House Republicans so far, don’t want to get rid of the shutdown. I don’t know in what world we’re faring well under the shutdown in terms of policy or politics,” Flake said.
“Nope,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) when asked if he liked the leading Senate GOP offer, drafted by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “We’re working on something else.”The Susan Collins offer, which the president has not neither accepted nor rejected, would extend the government's borrowing authority by 3 months and reopen the government for six months, giving Congress and the president time to hammer out a budget deal, while also delaying the Medical device tax (with offsets) and five federal agencies more flexibility to deal with the sequester - allowing them to prioritize spending rather than a meat cleaver cut. That too only lasts till the budget deal is completed, and since the sequester cuts are locked into any CR, this is a victory for the president.
No wonder the Tea Party crazy caucus, also known as the House GOP conference, doesn't like it. Perhaps if they can shut down the government and cause a default scare during Thanskgiving - or better yet, Christmas - it would totally endear them to the American people.
What the Senate Republicans are doing is the bidding of the business lobby - which, for the time being - happens to rest in not completely blowing up the American economic system. But the Tea Partiers - largely the result of big money astroturfing - have taken on a character of their own. They have their own agenda, and they used the business lobby and its money as much as the business lobby thought it was using them. They became insufferable fools rather than the useful idiots the business lobby wanted them to be.
And so after the big loss in 2012 and coming this close to contact with their insanity in the last month, the Republican corporate establishment seems to have made a decision: the Tea Party needs to go, meaning that their power and influence within the GOP needs to subside. The Democrats and the president may be their ultimate adversary, but their biggest threat at the moment - to the very existence of a national party to advocate for big business interests - was coming from the Tea Party's suicide-bombing strategy that left the party's popularity somewhere between herpes and cockroaches.
And so, they need to go. They need to be stripped off their ranks, of their influence, of their money to fund primary challenges, and of their stranglehold on the Republican Party. They need to be defunded, publicly humiliated, broken, and damaged so badly that sooner than later, Republicans hoping to hold public office will again run into the loving arms of Wall Street and big business rather than the doing the bidding of birthers.
Which, of course, is a brilliant plan, if you think about it. The Tea Party didn't just get where it is without the Republican Party's - and its business lobby's - full support. They started the Republican strategy of opposing everything Obama does and riling up their base about it. They rode the Tea Party wave to big victories in 2010, used those victories to gerrymander to attempt to ensure a permanent House majority, and again 2012 thinking that their enthusiasm would put one of their own - Mitt Romney - into the White House.
Sure, it didn't work out last year, but it was the Republican party and their corporate overlords that are ultimately at fault for whatever the Tea Party is pushing today. But if they can now blame the Tea Party for all their ills that turned the American people against the Republicans, the corporate lobby can get off relatively unscathed while the Republican party can recover over time - all by simply making the Tea Party their sacrificial goat.
In some ways, this may be the beginning of breathing some sense into a major American political party that for the past nearly five years have been the Party of No. In other ways, this is a cynically brilliant move on the part of the corporate lobby to scapegoat the Tea Party.
Should people in the Tea Party feel like they were used? Yes, because quite frankly, they were. Should they feel betrayed and form a new party? Given their knack for coherence, I expect it to last a few short flickers, but just for sheer political theater, I hope they do.
But in the interest of our country, this is one battle I hope the Republican establishment wins. Not because I think they should be rewarded for using their sacrificial goats to gain power, nor because I have any great affection for the corporate lobby, but because the Tea Party is a cancerous growth that is rapidly becoming an imminent danger to our country, our economy and our democracy. I hope this Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to take down the Tea Party succeeds because it is way past time for America to return to normal governing and move our country forward.